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Home starts, construction jobs see sharp decline

October 15, 2020

Housing starts across Canada plunged 20 per cent month-over-month in September, in line with a nationwide drop in construction employment six months into the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of the end of September, the seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts nationwide stood at 208,980 units—down from a robust 261,547 level in August—according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.
The six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates of housing inched up to 214,647 units from 212,609 in August.
Urban starts declined by 21.1 per cent to 195,909. This was largely due to social distancing measures leading to much slower construction of apartments, condos, and other multiple-unit housing, with starts falling by 27 per cent to 146,005. Meanwhile, single-detached urban starts had a modest 3.4 per cent rise to 49,904 units.
A separate, and perhaps more unsettling, report on September job numbers reveals that construction is missing from an employment surge being seen six months after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The September Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada reported that employment unexpectedly accelerated in September, increasing by 378,200—more than double the consensus forecast on a broadly-based pickup in hiring. This was the fifth consecutive month of job gains, which has now replaced 75 per cent of the three million jobs lost during March and April during the first lockdown period across Canada.
However, employment in construction remained little changed for the second consecutive month in September and was down by 120,000 (-8.1 per cent) compared with pre-COVID levels. More specifically, employment in construction was down the most in Ontario (-54,000; -9.5 per cent) and British Columbia (-39,000; -16.3 per cent).
Construction consists of three subsectors: construction of buildings, heavy and civil engineering construction, and specialty trade contractors. According to these latest results, employment in construction fell from February to July in each of these subsectors with the largest decline among specialty trade contractors.

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