Canadian Building Jobs Boom While U.S. Busts: Chart of the Day

Canadian construction employment is surging to a record amid public works projects, energy investment and homebuilding, even as U.S. building jobs fall to the least in more than 65 years.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows construction employment made up 7.42 percent of Canada’s workforce in April, the highest in records dating back to 1975, while the comparable U.S. figure fell to 4.18 percent, the lowest since 1946.

Canada has continued to spend on long-term infrastructure after curbing its stimulus package, Canadian Construction Association President Michael Atkinson says. In contrast, the U.S. Congressional Budget Office says there may be a recession next year if lawmakers don’t avoid a looming “fiscal cliff” of tax increases and spending cuts.

“We are pretty optimistic,” Atkinson said in a telephone interview from Edmonton, Alberta, where companies such as Imperial Oil Ltd. are building projects in the oil sands.

“In many parts of the country we saw no recession at all and the main reason was the stimulus plan,” he said. “What we are now seeing is the resource sector is back.” There are about 30 construction projects worth at least C$1 billion ($973 million) versus about half a dozen a few years ago, led by government and natural resource companies, Atkinson said.

Housing markets are another difference between the neighboring countries -- Canada’s housing starts reached the highest since 2007 last month, supported by low mortgage rates and demand for condominiums in big cities, while U.S. starts for April were about half of the pace recorded five years ago.

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