ICBA Economics with Jock Finlayson

ICBA Economics


ICBA Chief Economist Jock Finlayson researches and analyzes the vital economic data you need to know to grow your construction business.

Jock's Top Story

Employment in the B.C. construction industry is closely tied to developments and trends in the wider economy. The current situation is no exception. As economic growth has slowed in Canada and B.C. since 2022, net job creation in the construction sector has downshifted and the job vacancy rate as measured by Statistics Canada has eased somewhat. That said, the construction industry remains a foundational part of the overall economy, directly making up 8.8% of total B.C. employment (and ~11% of private sector employment) in 2023.


On a seasonally adjusted basis, the number of construction jobs in the province has been hovering in the range of 227,000 to 235,000 so far in 2024. Last year, construction jobs reached 235,000 (average annual), little changed from 2022 but down from a peak of 250,000 positions in 2019. The drop in construction employment partly reflects the impact of higher borrowing costs/interest rates in the last couple years, the winding down of work on a few large energy projects, and an increasingly difficult and costly operating environment for the industry.


Within the B.C. construction sector, jobs are distributed across the key industry segments as summarized in Table 1. Trades contracting accounts for more than half of employment in the industry, followed by residential building. The other two segments are non-residential construction and heavy, civil and engineering construction…

What Chris and Jock are reading:

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CIBC Economics says the housing shortage issue is largely a planning issue with official planning targets falling notably short of actual population growth. You cannot build an adequate supply of housing for population growth that you fail to forecast.
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Desjardins Economics says they do not foresee overall homeownership affordability returning to pre‑pandemic levels within the next two years. That result holds up even in the event of a more severe recession than we assume in our base case forecast, where interest rates come down more quickly.
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RBC’s Thought Leadership Group offers seven ways to fix Canada’s housing shortage. Lots of great ideas in here, including getting government out of the way by cutting taxes and expensive red tape.

ICBA's Construction Monitor

June 2024

Weak research and development investment – largely caused by high taxation and government policies seemingly designed to discourage investment and innovation – is causing sluggish productivity growth, says the June 2024 edition of The Construction Monitor, published by the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association.


Up until 2000, Canada achieved productivity growth rates above or roughly comparable to those in the U.S., but the country has been consistently falling behind since then.


“We are witnessing Canada’s long, slow decline. On productivity growth and many other measures of well-being and competitiveness, Canada is coming up short among its global peers,” wrote ICBA President Chris Gardner in his introduction to The Construction Monitor. “Why does productivity matter? Because the more Canadian firms innovate, the more they spend on upskilling their people and on adopting new technology, the more profitable they are and the more they can increase the size of paycheques for workers.”

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About Jock Finlayson

Jock Finlayson is Chief Economist for the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA), Canada’s largest construction association. He is the first Chief Economist in ICBA’s 50-year history. Analyzing industry trends, market conditions, and economic factors to provide insights and forecasts relevant to the construction sector, he advises ICBA and its members on developments in the business and policy environment affecting the construction sector and the broader economy and assists in strategic planning and public policy advocacy.


Previously, Mr. Finlayson served as Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer at the Business Council of British Columbia. In that capacity, he directed the Business Council’s work on economic, fiscal, tax, environmental, regulatory, and human capital issues of interest to the largest employers in the province and the wider business community.


Prior to returning to B.C. in 1994, Mr. Finlayson was Vice President of Research at the Business Council of Canada, a leading business association in Ottawa.


Mr. Finlayson holds a master’s degree in business from Yale University, undergraduate and M.A. degrees from UBC, and an honorary Doctor of Laws from Royal Roads University.


He is the author/coauthor of two books and more than 50 published articles, book chapters and monographs. A frequent commentator on economic, business, and public policy issues, Mr. Finlayson writes regularly for Business in Vancouver, the Globe and Mail, The Orca, Black Press, Troy Media, and Postmedia.


From 2007 to 2013, Mr. Finlayson was a member of the Board of Directors of the Bank of Canada, where he chaired the Corporate Governance Committee and the Fellowship Committee and served on both the Pension Committee and the Human Resources Committee. He is a past member of the National Statistics Council, the principal advisory body to the Chief Statistician of Canada, and previously sat on the Boards of the Institute for Research on Public Policy, the Canada West Foundation, and Genome BC. From 2019 to 2021, he was a member of the Expert Panel on Housing Supply and Affordability jointly appointed by the B.C. and federal governments.


Mr. Finlayson is a Senior Fellow at the Fraser Institute, a Fellow of Royal Roads University, and past president of both the Association of Professional Economists of B.C. and the Ottawa Economics Association. He resides in West Vancouver with his wife Marlene.