The Construction Industry Can Sell Itself to Young Labour Force Entrants

Apr 16, 2014

The three tables accompanying this article provide insight into Canada’s labour markets and how they have changed since the Great Recession.

The data is derived from Statistics Canada’s Cansim table 282-0007. Since the monthly numbers are not seasonally adjusted, care has been taken to “smooth” them, either as quarterly or annual averages.  

For percentage changes, only “like” or similar periods are compared (e.g., first quarter 2009 versus first quarter 2014). Employment levels in the summer can be quite different than in the winter.  

There are 20 industrial sub-sectors to consider. The bordered boxes in each table highlight construction.

In Table 1, showing the shares of total employment, there are some categories of work that one would expect to be at or near the top, and they don’t disappoint. For example, as a proportion of total employment, “health care and social assistance” (12.5%) is number one.

The other major category of institutional jobs ‒ “educational services” (7.7%) – appears fifth on Table 1’s list.

Those two categories also supply a great deal of employment stability. In Table 2, “health care and social assistance” (2.0%) is second lowest among the latest 12-month jobless rates and “educational services” (3.9%) is eighth.

Retail trade, with an 11.6% share and a second-place ranking in Table 1, is a source of employment for many Canadians. Its jobless rate of 4.7%, however, carries it to eleventh spot in Table 2.

“Manufacturing” (9.6%) is third for employment share, but its 5.2% unemployment rate pushes it down to fourteenth in Table 2’s ranking.

The “professional, scientific and technical services” category includes lawyers, accountants, architects and engineers. It’s taking an impressive 7.9% slice of total employment for fourth spot in Table 1. Here’s something to keep in mind, though. Many of the individuals in this category spend their workdays designing and facilitating construction projects.

The category specifically designated as “construction” by Statistics Canada includes only on-site workers. It sits in sixth place in Table 1, with a 6.9% share. Still, that’s higher than “accommodation and food services” (7th  at 6.4%); “transportation and warehousing” (9th at 5.0%); “finance and insurance” (10th at 4.6%); and “wholesale trade” (14th at 3.5%)   

The number of workers in another high-profile industry, “mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction” (1.8%), currently accounts for only a small proportion of total employment in the nation. That doesn’t detract from the high-paying jobs that are generated during the construction phases of mega resource projects.

Construction’s eighteenth place ranking among unemployment rates in Table 2 is distressing, but it’s partly due to a significant number of unskilled workers claiming ‒ for the purposes of the labour market survey ‒ that the sector is their home. 

I’ve left the most interesting compilation (Table 3) to last. Since the first quarter of 2009, which was smack-dab in the middle of Canada’s version of the Great Recession, the number of jobs in “mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction” (+22.3%) has streaked ahead by almost one-quarter.

Government jobs in “health care and social assistance” (3rd spot) and “education services” (5th) have also blossomed, +13.5% and +9.8% respectively.

Shoe-horned between those two, however, is construction in fourth position, with a double-digit percentage gain of 11.2%. On that score alone, the appeal of the sector as a source of hiring speaks for itself.

“Accommodation and food services” (8th at +6.8%), “retail trade” (12th at +3.9%) and “finance and insurance” (13th at +2.9%) all lag by comparison.

“Manufacturing” (18th at -5.3%) has been living a nightmare. 

Recruiters from the construction industry might want to highlight some of these statistics when they are at job fairs trying to catch the attention of young labour force entrants.

Canadian Industrial Sub-categories
TABLE 1: Ranking by Share of Total Employment, 
First Quarter 2014
TABLE 2: Ranking by Unemployment Rate, 
Annual Average, April 2013 to March 2014
TABLE 3: Ranking by Total Employment Growth, 
First Quarter 2009 to First Quarter 2014
  1 Health care & social assistance 12.5%   1 Utilities 1.5%   1 Mining, quarrying, oil & gas extraction 22.3%
  2 Retail trade 11.6%   2 Health care & social assistance 2.0%   2 Professional, scientific & technical services 16.6%
  3 Manufacturing 9.6%   3 Finance & insurance 2.0%   3 Health care & social assistance 13.5%
  4 Professional, scientific & technical services 7.9%   4 Public administration 2.4%   4 Construction 11.2%
  5 Educational services 7.7%   5 Real estate & leasing 3.1%   5 Educational services 9.8%
  6 Construction 6.9%   6 Professional, scientific & technical services 3.5%   6 Information, culture & recreation 7.5%
  7 Accommodation & food services 6.4%   7 Wholesale trade 3.9%   7 Transportation & warehousing 6.9%
  8 Public administration 5.1%   8 Educational services 3.9%   8 Accommodation & food services 6.8%
  9 Transportation & warehousing 5.0%   9 Other services* 3.9%   9 Utilities 6.4%
  10 Finance & insurance 4.6%   10 Transportation & warehousing 4.1%   10 Real estate & leasing 6.2%
  11 Other services* 4.4%   11 Retail trade 4.7%   11 Business, building & other support services 5.3%
  12 Information, culture & recreation 4.4%   12 Mining, quarrying, oil & gas extraction 4.9%   12 Retail trade 3.9%
  13 Business, building & other support services 3.8%   13 Agriculture 5.0%   13 Finance & insurance 2.9%
  14 Wholesale trade 3.5%   14 Manufacturing 5.2%   14 Forestry & logging 1.5%
  15 Real estate & leasing 1.9%   15 Information, culture & recreation 5.6%   15 Other services* 0.3%
  16 Mining, quarrying, oil & gas extraction 1.8%   16 Accommodation & food services 6.7%   16 Public administration -0.1%
  17 Agriculture 1.6%   17 Business, building & other support services 8.2%   17 Agriculture -1.8%
  18 Utilities 0.9%   18 Construction 8.3%   18 Manufacturing -5.3%
  19 Forestry & logging 0.3%   19 Forestry & logging 14.2%   19 Wholesale trade -5.4%
  20 Fishing, hunting & trapping 0.1%   20 Fishing, hunting & trapping 26.5%   20 Fishing, hunting & trapping -30.9%
100.0%        
*Includes auto repairs, beauty salons, funeral services, dry cleaners, etc.
Data source: Statistics Canada (Cansim table 282-0007); Table: CanaData - Reed Construction Data.


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