Looking Beyond COVID-19 for Canada’s Construction Industries
/ Author: Kari-Anne March
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Looking Beyond COVID-19 for Canada’s Construction Industries

By Kari-Anne March, College and Marketing Coordinator, CLAC Career Development College

It has been just over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed our world and crushed our highly anticipated promise of growth in the Canadian construction and maintenance industries. Initially, due to chaos and uncertainty coupled with a reduced demand in services, both public- and private-sector capital projects faced significant delays.

Between March and April 2020, almost 250,000 Canadians in the construction and maintenance industry lost their jobs. However, as clearer provincial and national guidelines came into play, the industry was deemed to be an essential service across most of the country, allowing a significant portion of the workforce to return to work.

But while many workers are back on the job, others still struggle to find secure stable employment. While we all know there is an upcoming shortage of skilled workers looming over us, we don’t quite know how our industry will be impacted by the pandemic long term. While we have been told for years that economic prospects are starting to improve, how far back will this last year set us? Although we are finally starting to adapt to our new world, much uncertainty about the future remains.

What key factors will impact our recovery? BuildForce Canada sees the following key factors as the greatest forces driving the recovery of the Canadian construction and maintenance sectors. It is noted that provincial economies will continue to recover at their own pace, taking into account unique economic factors in each jurisdiction.

How quickly COVID treatment is developed and vaccinations are made available.  As of March 26, 2021, only about nine percent of Canadians had received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Our rollout is significantly slower than that of other developed nations (31 percent in the UK; 23 percent in the US) and Trevin Stratton, chief economist at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has stated that, “The lagging rollout will have an impact on business survival and the economic recovery, particularly in the hardest-hit industries.”

The speed at which the economies of Canadian trading partners recover. The vaccination rate also affects our ability to do business with other countries. “If our advanced economy peers roll out vaccines faster than Canada, then there is a risk that investors will put their money where they will have a faster or more robust return on investment,” Stratton said, adding that Canada may yet take steps to close the vaccination gap. “Getting this right will be the single greatest factor for economic recovery over the short-term,” he said.

The recovery of Canadian consumer confidence. Consumer confidence is an economic indicator that measures the degree of optimism consumers feel about the overall state of the economy and their personal financial situation. When confidence is high, consumers spend more money than when it is low. As of March 2021, the Bloomberg Nanos Canadian Confidence Index has continued to climb, reaching a high of 58.2 points since the pandemic began last year. The easing of restrictions combined with the ongoing vaccination rollout is resulting in a spike in confidence comparable to pre-pandemic numbers. This trend hints towards the expectation that consumers will drive economic recovery in the coming months.

Government’s response on energizing the economy through infrastructure and other stimulus funding. Among other initiatives, the federal government has announced a three-year $10-billion infrastructure plan to create jobs and grow the economy. The goal is to create 60,000 jobs across the country by connecting Canadian households and businesses to high-speed internet, strengthening Canadian agriculture, and helping to build a low-carbon economy.

One year ago, no one could have guessed exactly how the pandemic would unfold. And one year later, we are still moving towards recovery. As experts across the country work to determine the magnitude of the impact the pandemic has had on our construction and maintenance industries, they are also dedicated to finding a sustainable and prosperous path forward for all Canadians.

Sources: BuildForce Canada; Financial Post; Bloomberg; Government of Canada


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