BCCA data shows historic pressures on province’s builders

Scarce labour, high costs, lengthy payment delays – B.C. builders are getting hit from multiple angles.

BCIT student cuts metal.

A trades student demonstrates their skills in Burnaby, B.C. – Province of B.C.

Key Takeaways:

  • Institutional construction investment in B.C. has dropped nearly 11 per cent while labour and material costs have continued to rise.
  • The industry is seeing its lowest unemployment rate since 1976 and the number of trades people has dropped five per cent during the past three years.
  • Contractors continue to see payment delays of 90-120 days.

The Whole Story:

The BC Construction Association is calling their latest batch of data a reversal of fortunes that shows heavy pressure on the construction sector.  

The statistics reported in the Fall 2022 BC Construction Association (BCCA) Industry Stat Pack, combined with findings from a new economic and policy report published this month by the organization, show a difficult road being tread by the province’s builders. 

The complete Stat Pack, Economic Report from Sage Policy Group and more information can be found here.

High costs and declining demand

Investment in B.C.’s industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) construction sectors is down 10.9 per cent since February 2020, while the non-residential building price index spiked 19.6 per cent.

Rising prices led to the largest industry in B.C.’s goods sector growing 10 per cent in dollar value despite the decrease in demand, contributing 9.7 per cent of provincial GDP. Construction has seen a massive 80 per cent increase in the value of current projects compared to five years ago.

The BCCA noted that contractors are struggling to balance declining commercial demand with rising costs of materials and labour, even as waning procurement standards on public sector projects add to project risk.

“The construction industry is massive, essential, and struggling”

BCCA President Chris Atchison

B.C. is also seeing its lowest construction unemployment rate since 1976 at 5.7 per cent, with the competition for talent sending average construction skyrocketing 26 per cent since 2017 and 11 per cent since last year alone. The 2022 jump includes a 2 per cent increase due to the 5 days mandatory paid sick leave legislated this past January.

Prompt payment still elusive 

The BCCA also expressed frustration that the provincial government has yet to deliver on prompt payment legislation. They noted that contractors regularly wait 90-120 days to be paid, put them in extreme financial jeopardy.

“Waiting to be paid is getting even more expensive” said Chris Atchison, BCCA president. “Slow payment for services rendered is unique to our industry, and with costs of goods, labour, and borrowing all rising, many BC contractors are reaching crisis.  Prompt payment legislation is not experimental, it is proven. Unlocking cash flow is an economic necessity and in the best interests of every community in BC.”

Labour grows more scarce 

According to BCCA data, the number of ICI construction companies in B.C. has grown to 26,262 but the number of tradespeople in the industry has dropped 5 per cent over three years. The average company size has shrunk 7 per cent over the last three years to an average of 6.53 workers.

Women comprise 5.7 per cent of tradespeople, an increase of 24 per cent since 2017 but a year-over-year decrease of 8 per cent.

“The construction industry is massive, essential, and struggling” said Atchison.  “Make no mistake: many employers are reaching a breaking point. The urgent need for more housing and other infrastructure development hangs in the balance.”


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