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Ontario construction is looking up

Positive outlook from industry contractors, annual OCS survey finds

TORONTO — March 2023: More than eight in 10 Ontario contractors are feeling good about their business prospects this year.

According to the Ontario Construction Secretariat’s annual Contractor Survey, 81 per cent of respondents think their business prospects for 2023 will either stay the same (49 per cent) or improve (32 per cent), while only 16 per cent are forecasting a drop in business.

“The past few years have been uncertain and difficult, particularly in the construction sector with shutdowns, closures, supply chain disruptions and labour issues,” says Robert Bronk, chief executive officer of the OCS. “But the pipeline of work out there is staggering and generating strong demands for contractors and labour, thereby fuelling contractors’ optimism about the coming year.”

While there remain concerns about ever-rising costs, high interest rates, difficulties sourcing materials and challenges attracting workers, these are countered by the sheer volume of work right across the province that is putting more demand on the skilled construction trades.

Fully a third of the contractors surveyed expect to be hiring this year, and two thirds have raised wages in the past year to both retain and attract skilled labour.

There is also an uptick in the percentage of contractors who are employing apprentices — 64 per cent this year compared to 60 per cent in 2022. But by and large, this increase is being driven by unionized contractors, 83 per cent of which employed apprentices in 2023, an increase of seven percentage points over a year ago. That compares to 54 per cent of non-union contractors who employed an apprentice in 2023, up two percentage points from 2022.

One of the challenges that remain in the post-COVID period is the delay or cancellation of projects. More than a third of contractors (36 per cent) report that they have had a project cancelled in the past year, and more than half (53 per cent) report projects that have been delayed.

Escalating project costs have been cited as the number one reason for a cancellation, with difficulty sourcing materials coming in second.

“Despite the mostly positive outlook, the availability of experienced skilled labour and material related costs are still prominent concerns,” says Bronk. “However, the severity of these issues is somewhat less than in our 2022 survey, and certain aspects such as material availability and supply chain disruptions are showing improvement.”

Read the full survey here.

For more information on the OCS, please visit Follow the OCS on Twitter @OntConstSec.

About the Ontario Construction Secretariat: The Ontario Construction Secretariat was formed in 1993 as a joint labour/management organization representing 25 unionized construction trades and their contractor partners in Ontario's industrial, commercial and institutional construction sector. The OCS is a respected organization that undertakes research that enhances the well-being of the industry, and provides advice and guidance on public policy matters related to the industry.