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Construction is providing the foundation for Canadian job growth

Construction employs nearly 1.4 million Canadians, the fourth-largest in the country, amid more building of roads, homes, shopping malls and offices.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

What's been driving Canada's job growth this year, and where will hiring happen in the coming months? The answer to both lies in one industry: construction.

Employment in the sector rose by 17,700 last month, Statistics Canada figures showed Friday. More than 110,000 jobs have been added over the past year, a gain of 9.1 per cent – by far the largest of any industry.

The sector employs nearly 1.4 million Canadians, the fourth-largest in the country, amid more building of roads, homes, shopping malls and offices. Construction employment is now running at a record high, and so is its share of total employment, according to HSBC.

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And the hard-hat hiring spree looks to continue, at least in the near term. Employment service firm Manpower Group's quarterly hiring outlook, to be released Tuesday, shows construction has the strongest prospects of any industry for the fourth quarter.

Manpower's overall outlook, based on a poll of nearly 1,900 Canadian employers, shows no change from the previous quarter, matching a three-year low and reflecting otherwise tepid plans.

Construction is the exception, where "employers report the strongest hiring prospects since the first quarter of 2008," Manpower said, adding that the outlook for the sector improved from both the prior quarter and the previous year.

Indeed, activity remains strong. A report Monday showed Canadian building permits rose to a record in July, driven by commercial activity such as stores and malls.

Wages are growing for construction workers – up 2.3 per cent from last year, above the rate of inflation. Though strikes in Quebec dented employment and hours in the province, on average workers still garner above-average pay. As of June, average earnings in construction were $1,166.43 a week, according to Statscan payrolls data, higher than average earnings for all sectors of $918.67.

The rate of hiring won't last much longer, particularly as the prospect of higher interest rates slows the pace of building activity and home-buying. But for now, construction is a key driver of the nation's job-creation engine, a welcome sign given weaker employment in natural resources and manufacturing.

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