With an abundance of current work and more projects on the horizon, Ontario contractors are expecting 2024 to be a busy year, the Ontario Construction Secretariat’s annual Contractor Survey found.

While there remains concern about rising costs for materials and labour, there has been a noted improvement in the supply chain and growing interest in innovation and technology to increase productivity and lower costs. More than two-thirds of the contractors surveyed (66 per cent) are feeling positive about the coming year; among unionized workplaces, that number is even stronger at 71 per cent.

“There is a massive project pipeline in Ontario that is fuelling positivity about business prospects,” says Robert Bronk, CEO of the OCS. “Power generation, transit and health-care facilities are leading the list of projects currently under construction or slated for construction over the next few years in every region of the province.”

Regionally, prospects are most positive in Northern Ontario, in response to increased mining and institutional projects, while contractors in Eastern Ontario anticipate a bit of a breather in 2024.

Building trade unions and their contractor partners continue to be leaders in apprenticeship training, with 78 per cent of union contractors reporting having apprentices as part of their team, compared to only half of non-union contractors.

There is also a strong support for the adoption of new technologies; 83 per cent of those surveyed feel adopting new tech is important to the future of their business, and 15 per cent have created a budget to invest in new technology. The most commonly used technologies were BIM (44 per cent) and jobsite data collection apps (43 per cent).

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Ongoing labour challenges remain a concern, with 65 per cent reporting that they expect recruiting skilled workers to be more difficult in 2024 and nearly half (48 per cent) citing the availability of experienced skilled labour as the top concern in 2024. But that isn’t tempering expectations for job creation in the sector, with 34 per cent of respondents expecting their workforce to be larger this year, against only eight per cent who expect the number of people they employ to drop.

If there is one projected drag on the outlook for 2024, it is rising costs. One in five open-ended responses to the survey cited increasing prices, whether it was for labour, materials, or higher interest rates. Following availability of labour, material costs (28 per cent), labour costs (27 per cent) and transportation costs (25 per cent) were listed as the top concerns of the year.

“Despite a mostly positive outlook for ICI construction in 2024, the rising costs we are all facing remain a concern,” says Mr. Bronk. “But it is encouraging that despite this worry, there are still strong expectations for growth and expansion over the coming year, with many contractors implementing new technologies to help create efficiencies and support business success.”

The OCS Contractor Survey polls the province’s institutional, commercial and industrial construction sector to gauge business expectations and present views on salient issues impacting the industry. The survey was conducted via phone interview with 500 contractors between November 2023 and January 2024, including union and non-union companies.

Featured image: Katherine Jaobs, Ontario Construction Secretariat Director of Research discusses the 2024 Contractor Survey at the OCS’s annual State of the Industry & Outlook Conference in Mississauga, Mar. 7, 2023. (John Tenpenny)

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