On-Site Magazine

Construction loses jobs in December, faces spectre of further lockdowns in January

By David Kennedy   


COVID-19 reduced staff on job sites across the country and created uncertainty across all market segments

Though most construction projects across Canada never came to a complete standstill as a result of COVID-19 — and shutdowns at those that did halt work were typically brief — the pandemic took a considerable toll on the industry’s workforce throughout 2020.

The industry shed 2,900 jobs in December, according to the latest Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada, ending a year of job losses and partial recovery on a sour note.

The relatively small loss last month — 0.2 per cent of the overall industry — follows major losses in the spring, a partial recovery through the summer and some ups and downs during the fall. Roughly 1.4 million workers were employed in construction at the end of 2020, down approximately 80,000, or 5.4 per cent, from the close of 2019. Construction is among the hardest-hit of Canadian industries, though layoffs pale compared to certain service sectors where losses top 25 per cent.

With the virus’s second wave continuing to add to case counts, the construction starts 2021 in an uneasy position.


Earlier this week, Quebec announced stricter lockdown measures, including the implementation of a provincewide curfew, but said construction sites would be allowed to remain open. The province added the caveat that work should be limited to current commitments. All staff able to work from home are also required to do so.

The government in neighbouring Ontario also faces increasing calls to implement wider measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. The province entered a lockdown Dec. 26, but construction, along with most other businesses, was allowed to continue operating. No further measures have been announced this month, despite climbing case counts.

Trade groups have warned further shutdowns in the sector could have serious consequences for both the industry and workers.


Along with the immediate health crisis, Canada’s construction industry faces a range of obstacles and opportunities as 2021 gets underway. On-Site breaks down the expectations for the sector this year, as well as the Top 10 trends to watch in its 2021 Forecast


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