Rock to Road

News
Construction’s silver lining


February 7, 2009
By Andy Bateman

February 7, 2009 – By any measure, the Statistics Canada labour force survey issued
yesterday was bad news.
Statistics Canada reports that employment across the
country fell by 129,000 from December 2008 to January 2009 (-0.8%),
almost all in full time jobs. But how did the construction
industry fare in all the mayhem?

A closer look at the numbers
suggests that the construction industry fared relatively well, at least
compared to other categories in the goods producing sector. Of the 129,000 job
losses, the construction sector accounted for only 4,400 or less than 4% of the
total. The drop was most pronounced in manufacturing, where the net loss
totalled 101,000. In the goods producing sector, the job loss rates in the
construction and the natural resources sectors were significantly slower than
all the other sector categories including agriculture, utilities and
manufacturing.  For the period January
2008 to January 2009, the construction sector actually recorded a net gain of
nearly 21,000 jobs.

Before
we get complacent however, it seems likely that there is some time lag in the
construction numbers, with the slowdown in residential construction not yet
reflected in overall construction employment. Even so, there does appear to be grounds
for optimism for the construction industry. In the January 27th
Federal Budget, it was announced that “
the Government is
providing $7.8 billion to build quality housing, stimulate construction,
encourage home ownership and enhance energy efficiency.” The 2009 budget also “accelerates
and expands the recent historic federal investment in infrastructure with
almost $12 billion in new infrastructure stimulus funding over two years, so
that Canada
emerges from this economic crisis with more modern and greener infrastructure. This
includes funding for shovel-ready projects that can start this upcoming construction
season, including roads, bridges, clean energy, broadband internet access and
electronic health records across the country.”

An upswing in
construction employment resulting from the immediate implementation of the budget
stimulus package would certainly be welcome news.  

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