The construction industry on Vancouver Island is one of few industries weathering the COVID-19 pandemic according to the newly released State of the Island Economic Report 2020.
“Construction is going to be one of those industries that is going to help us out of COVID,” said CEO of the Vancouver Island Construction Association Rory Kulmala.
“Getting people that couldn’t work in the retail or hospitality, maybe there’s a place for them in construction and that’s what we’re hoping will happen,” he said.
And because of the pandemic the local economy is going to need all the help it can get.
“I think this is the worst economic hit that we’ve experienced since at least the 1930s,” said Susan Mowbray, senior economist with MNP.
Mowbray presented the ‘State of the Island Economic Report‘ this week. The unprecedented report, in the midst of a pandemic, lists the future of many industries, including forestry and aquaculture and tourism as “uncertain”.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the full effect on those businesses yet because the longer this goes on the harder it’s going to be for them to survive,” said Mowbray.
Mowbray says Vancouver Island reached its lowest economic point in May after many businesses were shut down and borders were closed. She adds that the island has been in a very slow recovery ever since.
For example, at Victoria International Airport arrivals were down 96 per cent in May, reaching a slightly better 82 per cent in July. Similarly, hotel occupancy was down 81 per cent in May, rising to 60 per cent in July.
Mowbray does suggest, however, that the island is actually in a better position than many other parts of B.C., including the Lower Mainland, because people continue to move here from other parts of B.C. and Canada, strengthening our real estate industry and construction, which happens to provide a lot of jobs.
“So the more people that move here, the more we have to build infrastructure so there’s a bit of a balance but certainly the residential market has been going very well on the island,” said Kulmala.
Mowbray says due to the pandemic it’s hard to know just how long it will take for different sectors to recover, but for most, it’s likely at least two years and it’s expected to be even longer for tourism.