Labour market tightness in Nova Scotia is expected to persist over the short term

OTTAWA, March 25, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Construction and maintenance activity in Nova Scotia experienced a slight contraction in 2023 as a further gain in non-residential construction was offset by a larger loss in residential-sector activity. Rising interest rates have cooled demand for new housing in the province since investment levels reached a peak in 2022. Meanwhile, activity in the non-residential sector continues to be supported by strong growth across engineering construction and in the industrial, commercial, and institutional buildings sector.

BuildForce Canada released its 2024–2033 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for Nova Scotia today. The outlook anticipates that residential construction activity will return to growth after 2024 as interest rates stabilize, and will continue to grow to the end of the forecast period. Non-residential activity, meanwhile, is anticipated to peak in 2025 before contracting through to 2030 as currently tracked major projects wind down.

Employment is projected to rise across the forecast period, with residential employment growing by 2% above 2023 levels by 2033, and non-residential employment increasing by 8%.

“The challenge for Nova Scotia’s construction sector will be matching labour force growth with anticipated employment demands in the short term. This is particularly the case given increasing numbers of retirements and competition from other industries for a declining share of younger workers,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “Demands will be elevated across a number of trades and occupations in both the residential and non-residential sectors through 2025. Conditions should return to balance thereafter.”

BuildForce Canada projects that as many as 8,200 workers, or 22% of the current labour force, will retire from Nova Scotia’s construction industry by 2033. Coupled with an anticipated rise in employment demands, the industry will need to recruit as many as 10,600 workers by 2033.

These numbers are based on existing known demands and do not take into account public-sector initiatives to address housing affordability challenges, nor the anticipated increase in demand for construction services related to the retrofit of existing residential, industrial, commercial, and institutional buildings to accommodate the electrification of the economy. Both scenarios are addressed in separate reports to be released by BuildForce Canada at a later date.

Over the same period, the industry is expected to recruit a potential 7,400 new workers aged 30 or younger from the local population, leaving a gap of 3,200 workers that will need to be filled from a variety of sources outside the existing labour force.

"While developing skilled tradespeople takes years, often through provincial apprenticeships, recent increases in registrations and completions are a positive step for meeting future workforce needs in Nova Scotia's construction industry," says Duncan Williams, President and CEO of the Construction Association of Nova Scotia.

In 2023, Nova Scotia’s construction industry employed approximately 4,600 women; 450 more than in 2022. Of them, 35% worked on site, directly on construction projects. Women, however, made up just 5% of the 34,600 tradespeople employed in the province’s construction industry.

The Indigenous population is another under-represented group that represents potential recruitment opportunities for Nova Scotia’s construction industry. In 2021, Indigenous workers accounted for approximately 5% of the province’s construction labour force, or about the same percentage as among the overall provincial labour force. As the Indigenous population is the fastest growing in Canada and Indigenous workers seem predisposed to the pursuit of careers within the sector, there may be scope to further increase the recruitment of Indigenous People into the province’s construction industry.

The construction industry is also committed to the recruitment of newcomers to Canada. Based on current trends, Nova Scotia is expected to see elevated levels of immigration over the forecast period. This will make newcomers a key contributor to the industry’s labour force. Although newcomers have nearly doubled as a share of the province’s labour force over the past decade – from 5% in 2012 to 9% in 2022, they account for just 4% of the total construction labour force.

"Nova Scotia's construction sector is committed to building a more diverse and inclusive workforce. We're actively recruiting individuals from under-represented groups, including women, Indigenous Peoples, African Nova Scotians, people with disabilities, and newcomers to Canada, to address future labour needs. While progress is ongoing, initial efforts are showing encouraging signs,” says Trent Soholt, Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Construction Sector Council.

BuildForce Canada is a national industry-led organization that represents all sectors of Canada’s construction industry. Its mandate is to support the labour market development needs of the construction and maintenance industry. As part of these activities, BuildForce works with key industry stakeholders, including contractors, proponents of construction, labour providers, governments, and training providers to identify both demand and supply trends that will impact labour force capacity in the sector, and supports the career searches of job seekers wanting to work in the industry. BuildForce also leads programs and initiatives that support workforce upskilling, workforce productivity improvements, improvements to training modalities, human resource tools to support the adoption of industry best practices, as well as other value-added initiatives focused on supporting the industry’s labour force development needs. Visit

For further information, contact Bill Ferreira, Executive Director, BuildForce Canada, at or 613-569-5552 ext. 2220.

This report was produced with the support and input of a variety of provincial construction and maintenance industry stakeholders, and was funded in part by the Government of Canada's Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.

For local industry reaction to this latest BuildForce Canada report, please contact:

Trent Soholt 
Executive Director 
Nova Scotia Construction Sector Council – ICI

Duncan Williams 
President and CEO 
Construction Association of Nova Scotia