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B.C. construction survey says wages to increase, skilled labourers sought, but market is tight

A survey done by the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association says respondents expect to give their workers a 3.5 per cent raise, with another 4.2 per cent increase in 2022.

A new survey says construction wages in B.C. have increased despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

This week, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) released its annual wage and benefits survey.

The survey says because there’s a shortage of skilled workers, wages have increased despite construction employers facing an uncertain future.

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The ICBA says approximately 1,000 construction companies took part in the survey, which was released on Wednesday morning.

“It seems counter-intuitive to expect wages to jump 7.7 per cent over the next two years at the same time employers are planning for less construction work, but that is how tight the B.C. labour market has become,” ICBA president Chris Gardner said in a press release.

The survey says B.C. construction companies employ more than 240,000 people, with construction accounting for nine per cent of the province’s GDP.

A graphic showing skilled labour projections from a new survey released this week by the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association. Independent Contractors and Businesses Association

The survey said respondents expect to give their workers a 3.5 per cent raise, with another 4.2 per cent increase in 2022.

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“The effects of COVID-19 were certainly felt by construction companies, which limited 2020 pay increases to just 0.5%, roughly the rate of inflation,” said the survey.

“Companies also report fewer tenders for new projects; just 38 per cent of companies expect more work in 2021 than they had in 2020.”

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“We are far off what used to be the norm of more than half of all construction contractors expecting more work in the coming year,” added Gardner.

“The percentage of contractors who foresee a decline in business in 2021 is almost twice as large as last year. While the north and Vancouver Island remain relatively optimistic, the Lower Mainland and rest of B.C. are very nervous.”

ICBA is estimating that COVID-19 reduced construction volumes by 15 per cent in 2020 and is forecasting a further decline of 5 per cent in 2021.

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Another graphic showing results from the wages survey done by the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association. Independent Contractors and Businesses Association

“Keeping close to a quarter-million men and women working on construction sites through a global pandemic provided an important life-line to many families and communities across B.C. over the past year — but uncertainty about the future is the buzzword for 2021,” said Gardner.

Still, ICBA said the survey shows there’s a strong demand for skilled workers in all regions of the province.

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According to the survey:

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  • Every single glazing, insulation, and steel company surveyed noted they needed more glaziers, insulators and steel fabricators respectively
  • 94 per cent of mobile crane/equipment companies said they needed more skilled operators
  • 92 per cent of roofing companies are looking for roofers
  • 91 per cent of pipefitter employers are on the hunt for more labour

“If you’re looking for work, construction remains a strong option,” said Gardner.

“British Columbia is going over a demographic cliff, with a workforce that is rapidly aging out.

“There is incredible opportunity in construction for young people, entrepreneurs and skilled trades workers.”

The survey also noted:

Interior

  • 37 per cent of contractors expect more work in 2021 than last year
  • 54 per cent say they are short of workers, especially electricians, plumbers and labourers

North

  • 56 per cent of contractors expect more work in 2021 than last year
  • 67 per cent say they are short of workers, especially carpenters and labourers

Vancouver Island

  • 54 per cent of contractors expect more work in 2021 than last year
  • 64 per cent say they are short of workers, especially labourers and carpenters

Lower Mainland

  • 35 per cent of contractors expect more work in 2021 than last year
  • 61 per cent say they are short of workers, especially plumbers, labourers, carpenters, and electricians

To view the survey, click here.

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