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Construction employment dips slightly as specialty trade contractors decline

July 31, 2023  By Don Horne

Canada’s workforce increased by 23,300 in May, according to the latest Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours from Statistics Canada. However, employment in the construction sector fell by two-tenths of a per cent, or 1,800 positions on a monthly basis.

The dip offset a net increase of 1,200 positions that the sector experienced between February and April, while May’s performance was attributed to a decline in specialty trade contractors, a segment that fell by 1,500 positions. Payroll employment was little changed in non-residential and residential building construction, as well as in heavy and civil engineering construction.

Despite the small reduction in number of workers, the construction sector remained almost 50,000 workers ahead of this time last year, an increase of more than four per cent compared to May of 2022. Seasonally adjusted, there were 69,375 job vacancies in the sector in May, and a job vacancy rate of 5.7 per cent.

Looking more broadly, across all sectors the number of job vacancies declined by 26,000 (3.3 per cent) to 759,000 in May, continuing a downward trend observed over the past year. Compared with the peak of just over 1 million (1,003,200) unfilled positions reached in May 2022, job vacancies were down by 244,300 (24.3 per cent) in May 2023.

As expected, payroll employment in federal government public administration increased by 39.4 per cent, or by 106,600 positions, as workers returned from April’s strike action, which had reduced the number of workers by 107,400. The decline was expected to be temporary.

Growth in overall payroll employment has moderated in recent months compared with the last four months of 2022 and early 2023. From September 2022 to January 2023, overall payroll employment generally trended upwards, with a cumulative gain of 279,700 (1.6 per cent). In comparison, growth from January to May was 112,200 (0.6 per cent).

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