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Industrial capacity utilization rates

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First quarter 2009 (Previous release)

Canadian industries continued to reduce their rate of capacity utilization in the first quarter of 2009, operating at 69.3% of production capacity, down 5.6 percentage points from the previous quarter. It was the first time that industrial capacity use fell below the 70% level since the start of the data series in 1987.

Capacity utilization falls to lowest level on record

In the first quarter, durable goods industries, especially the transportation equipment industry, the construction sector, and the mining sector (excluding oil and gas extraction), were the main contributors to the overall decline.

Weakened global and domestic demand for manufactured goods continued to drive down capacity utilization rates. Of the 21 major industries in the manufacturing group, 18 registered lower rates.

As it did in the fourth quarter of 2008, the transportation equipment industry led the first quarter decline in the manufacturing group. Capacity use in this industry fell from 58.3% in the fourth quarter to 42.5% in the first quarter of 2009.

In the non-manufacturing group, capacity use fell in all sectors, except for the oil and gas extraction sector. The most notable drop occurred in the mining sector, where utilization fell by 14.8 percentage points from the fourth quarter to 55.3%, the lowest rate ever posted by this sector.

Manufacturing slowdown continues

Manufacturing: Largest quarterly decline ever in capacity use

Manufacturers lowered their use of production capacity in the first quarter to 65.9%, down 7.8 percentage points from the fourth quarter of 2008. This was the largest quarterly decline on record for the entire manufacturing sector.

Note to readers

The industrial capacity utilization rate is the ratio of an industry's actual output to its estimated potential output.

For this release, rates have been revised back to the first quarter of 2006 to reflect the revised source data.

Durable goods industries recorded significant decreases in the use of capacity. Transportation equipment, primary metals, fabricated metal product, machinery, and wood product manufacturing industries accounted for most of the decline in capacity use.

Capacity utilization in the transportation equipment industry fell 15.8 percentage points from the fourth quarter and 35.0 percentage points from the first quarter of 2008, as manufacturers of motor vehicles and associated parts sharply cut back their production to levels approaching the second quarter of 1994. Numerous plants reported extended closures and slowdowns in January in reaction to lower demand in Canada and the United States.

In the primary metal manufacturing industry, capacity utilization decreased by 10.1 percentage points to 74.9%. This reflected a large decline in production of iron and steel mills and ferro-alloy manufacturing, and in foundries.

The utilization rate in the fabricated metal product manufacturing industry declined from 77.2% in the fourth quarter of 2008 to 70.5% in the first quarter of 2009. The major contributor was lower production in architectural and structural metals manufacturing.

Capacity use in the machinery manufacturing industry fell 6.4 percentage points to 75.6%. The drop was due largely to declining output in construction machinery, mining machinery and metalworking machinery manufacturing, in line with the reduced needs of the using industries.

The wood product manufacturing industry operated at 60.6% capacity in the first quarter, down from 70.2% in the previous quarter. Reduced production in sawmills and wood preservation, partly a reflection of lower levels of construction activity, contributed to the lower rate.

On the other hand, capacity use rates increased in food manufacturing, beverage and tobacco product manufacturing, and petroleum and coal product manufacturing industries. Capacity use in the food manufacturing industry rose from 80.3% in the fourth quarter of 2008 to 81.3% in the first quarter of 2009. The gain was attributable mostly to an increase in output of fruit and vegetable preserving and specialty food manufacturing.

Non-manufacturing: Capacity use on the rise in oil and gas extraction

The capacity utilization rate in the oil and gas extraction sector rose 1.7 percentage points in the first quarter to 78.6%. This reversed a decline in the previous quarter as production of both crude petroleum and natural gas advanced.

In the mining sector, excluding oil and gas extraction, capacity use fell sharply to 55.3% from 70.1% in the previous quarter. This was the result of large declines in output of potash, copper, nickel and iron ore mining, combined with a sharp drop in support activities for mining, and oil and gas extraction.

The construction sector operated at 71.8% of its capacity, a 3.5 percentage point drop from the previous quarter. Lower activities in residential building construction and engineering and repair work were behind the decrease.

Capacity use in the electric power generation, transmission and distribution sector slipped to 80.8%, the fifth consecutive quarterly decline. The rate in the forestry and logging sector fell 2.3 percentage points to 72.6%.

Available on CANSIM: table 028-0002.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 2821.

Data on industrial capacity utilization rates for the second quarter of 2009 will be released on September 14.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Xiang Zhou (613-951-0457;, Investment and Capital Stock Division.

Table 1

Industrial capacity utilization rates
  First quarter 2008r Fourth quarter 2008r First quarter 2009 First quarter 2008 to first quarter 2009 Fourth quarter 2008 to first quarter 2009
  % percentage point change
Total industrial 79.8 74.9 69.3 -10.5 -5.6
Forestry and logging 77.6 74.9 72.6 -5.0 -2.3
Mining and oil and gas extraction 76.6 74.9 71.5 -5.1 -3.4
Oil and gas extraction 77.9 76.9 78.6 0.7 1.7
Mining 73.4 70.1 55.3 -18.1 -14.8
Electric power generation, transmission and distribution 88.1 82.7 80.8 -7.3 -1.9
Construction 79.0 75.3 71.8 -7.2 -3.5
Manufacturing 80.1 73.7 65.9 -14.2 -7.8
Food 80.8 80.3 81.3 0.5 1.0
Beverage and tobacco products 66.3 72.8 75.4 9.1 2.6
Beverage 66.2 74.0 76.0 9.8 2.0
Tobacco 67.1 65.3 71.6 4.5 6.3
Textile mills 65.1 66.1 60.5 -4.6 -5.6
Textile product mills 83.4 74.6 65.6 -17.8 -9.0
Clothing 69.8 71.7 69.6 -0.2 -2.1
Leather and allied products 73.6 80.6 79.8 6.2 -0.8
Wood products 72.2 70.2 60.6 -11.6 -9.6
Paper 85.5 80.2 75.9 -9.6 -4.3
Printing and related support activities 75.7 68.3 64.3 -11.4 -4.0
Petroleum and coal products 80.2 77.3 77.8 -2.4 0.5
Chemical 81.2 78.0 74.4 -6.8 -3.6
Plastics and rubber products 77.2 67.9 61.8 -15.4 -6.1
Plastic products 75.9 66.4 60.2 -15.7 -6.2
Rubber products 83.4 74.6 69.6 -13.8 -5.0
Non-metallic mineral products 81.0 78.0 65.6 -15.4 -12.4
Primary metal 90.8 85.0 74.9 -15.9 -10.1
Fabricated metal products 84.3 77.2 70.5 -13.8 -6.7
Machinery 84.0 82.0 75.6 -8.4 -6.4
Computer and electronic products 88.1 86.1 83.3 -4.8 -2.8
Electrical equipment, appliance and component 81.2 85.3 76.2 -5.0 -9.1
Transportation equipment 77.5 58.3 42.5 -35.0 -15.8
Furniture and related products 78.3 74.3 66.9 -11.4 -7.4
Miscellaneous manufacturing 76.3 78.3 76.2 -0.1 -2.1