British Columbia's construction industry says its workforce numbers have improved in recent years, but persistent labour shortages are putting "extreme pressures" on employers.

The BC Construction Association says the shortage of qualified workers has pushed the average annual wage in the sector to just short of $75,000, up 21 per cent in the last five years.

It says the average entry-level wage for construction workers is now at more than $22 an hour, 25 per cent above minimum wage in the province.

Association president Chris Atchison says in a statement that labour levels have improved, with a projected deficit of 6,600 skilled workers in B.C. by 2033, compared to the forecasted need of 26,100 by 2023 estimated a decade ago. 

Atchison says the industry still saw the number of trades workers drop by 7 per cent over the last five years to 167,300, and the average construction company in the province has seen its size contract by 15 per cent during that time. 

The association says companies also face persistent uncertainty when it comes to getting paid for their work, with contractors possibly having to "wait months for payment."

"They experience significant financial risk and take on the increased cost of debt, which can put them in danger of bankruptcy," the statement says. "They are put in the position of 'financing' construction projects, including the housing B.C. desperately needs."

Atchison says the group is urging B.C. Premier David Eby to enact prompt-payment legislation to provide relief to the industry, which is responsible for 229,100 employees and $27 billion — or 10.3 per cent — of the province's GDP. 

A statement from the government says the Attorney General's Ministry has met with the construction industry to review such legislation in other jurisdictions and learn about what the industry would like to see here in B.C.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2024.