Canada is hitting record immigration targets each year and the government is getting ready to welcome more people who work in skilled trades. But Canada continues to lose tens of thousands of jobs in the construction sector, according to recent data.
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According to Statistics Canada’s jobs data released on Friday, the Canadian construction industry saw a loss of 45,000 jobs in July. This was a drop of 2.8 percent from the previous month.
“In construction, employment decreased by 45,000 (-2.8%) in July, following a smaller decline of 14,000 (-0.8%) in June. Since January 2023, employment in construction decreased by 71,000, offsetting cumulative increases of 65,000 from September 2022 to January 2023,” the latest Labour Force Survey read.
Construction has lost more jobs than all major sectors, followed by public administration; information, culture, and recreation as well as transportation and warehousing.
The construction industry is short tens of thousands of workers, and experts say a coming wave of retirements could make the problem worse.
Meanwhile, Canada is millions of homes behind what’s needed to reach housing affordability this decade.
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The job vacancy rate in construction is at a record high with around 80,000 vacancies in the industry, said CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal in a recent note.
Those vacancies, which push up building costs and impede productivity, come at a time when the residential construction industry is under pressure to meet the demands of a growing population.
A spokesperson for newly-appointed Immigration Minister Marc Miller has said fulfilling Canada’s labour shortages is one of his key priorities, and a key goal of the government’s immigration targets.
“Strategies like Express Entry, and the historic Immigration Levels Plan, which is largely made up of economic migrants, are a great asset to our nation as they will directly help combat the ongoing labour shortage. This is especially true when it comes to the housing sector,” Bahoz Dara Aziz, press secretary to the immigration minister told Global News.
The spokesperson added, “With provinces like Ontario needing 100,000 workers to meet their housing demands, it is clear that immigration will play a strong role in creating more homes for Canadians.”
The federal government increased its immigration targets in November 2022, and Miller has suggested those targets may need to keep rising.
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Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. forecasts a need for 3.5 million more homes by 2030 than the country is currently on track to build.
The number of new homes built, however, has been in decline, from just over 271,000 in 2021 to 260,000 in 2022. And in May this year, the annual pace of housing starts dropped 23 per cent month over month, leading the CMHC’s chief economist to predict that just 210,000 to 220,000 new homes will be built by the end of the year.
“It’s absolutely critical to address the shortage of skilled trades workers in our country, and part of the solution is helping the construction sector find and maintain the workers it needs,” said Miller in a statement, making his first major announcement as Canada’s new immigration minister.
“This round of category-based selection recognizes these skilled trades workers as essential, and I look forward to welcoming more of these talented individuals to Canada.”
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Sean Fraser, Miller’s predecessor, had announced in May that Canada would amend the Express Entry program by adding category-based selections.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said that by welcoming people in skilled trades such as carpentry, plumbing and welding, Canada can help its construction sector attract skilled workers.
Trades is the latest category to be added to the list of categories eligible for the Express Entry program. The others are French-language proficiency, healthcare occupation, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) occupations, transportation occupations and agriculture and agri-food occupations.
To qualify for Express Entry in the trades category, an applicant must have accumulated, within the past three years, at least six months of full-time, continuous work experience (or an equal amount of part-time work experience) in skilled trades in Canada or abroad.
However, migrant rights group in Canada have warned that introducing category-based migrant without ensuring sufficient safeguards would green-light exploitation of migrant workers.
— with files from the Canadian Press
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