Building permits, March 2012

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In March, contractors took out building permits worth $6.8 billion, up 4.7% from February following a 7.6% increase the previous month. The gain was the result of higher construction intentions for both institutional and commercial buildings, mostly in Ontario.

Chart 1 
Total value of permits
Chart 1: Total value of permits

Chart description: Total value of permits

CSV version of the chart

In the non-residential sector, the value of permits rose 13.9% to $2.9 billion, following a 37.7% increase the previous month. This was the highest level since June 2010. Increases in the institutional and commercial components more than offset declines in the industrial component. Most provinces posted advances, with Ontario accounting for most of the growth.

The value of residential permits declined 1.3% to $3.9 billion, the third monthly decrease in a row. Decreases occurred in six provinces, led by Ontario. Alberta posted the largest increase, followed by Nova Scotia.

Non-residential sector: Intentions up for institutional and commercial buildings

In the institutional component, construction intentions were up 88.4% to $973 million, following a 64.6% increase the previous month. This was the highest level since October 2011. The advance was mainly the result of higher construction intentions for government buildings and medical facilities in Ontario. In New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, the increase was principally the result of higher intentions for government buildings.

The value of permits for commercial buildings rose 15.3% to $1.5 billion, following a 5.7% increase the month before. The advance originated from higher construction intentions for a variety of structures, including retail complexes, office buildings, warehouses, hotels and restaurants, and laboratories. Increases were reported in seven provinces, led by Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador.

In the industrial component, intentions fell 42.8% to $408 million. This decline occurred a month after the value of permits for industrial buildings more than doubled. The decline was particularly attributable to lower construction intentions for manufacturing plants in British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario, which posted increases the previous month. Decreases in the industrial component were also posted in three other provinces.

Chart 2 
Residential and non-residential sectors
Chart 2: Residential and non-residential sectors

Chart description: Residential and non-residential sectors

CSV version of the chart

Residential sector: Construction intentions down for both single- and multi-family dwellings

The value of single-family dwelling permits declined 1.7% to $2.3 billion, the third consecutive monthly decrease. Gains in six provinces, led by Alberta, were not enough to offset decreases in the remaining provinces. The largest decline was recorded in Ontario, followed by Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick.

The value of multi-family dwelling permits fell 0.7% to $1.6 billion. Despite three consecutive monthly decreases, this level was 8.6% higher than the monthly average in 2011. Declines occurred in seven provinces, led by Quebec. Alberta reported the largest increase.

Municipalities across Canada issued permits for the construction of 17,650 new dwellings, up 2.1% from February. The increase came from both multi-family dwellings, which rose 2.5% to 10,594 units, and single-family dwellings, which increased 1.4% to 7,056 units.

Increases in most provinces

In March, the value of building permits was up in eight provinces.

Ontario registered the largest increase, as a result of higher construction intentions for institutional buildings and, to a lesser extent, for commercial buildings.

Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta posted the second- and third-highest gains, respectively. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the increase came from higher construction intentions for commercial and institutional buildings. In Alberta, the advance originated from an increase in the value of permits for residential, industrial and commercial buildings.

British Columbia posted the largest decline, as a result of lower construction intentions for industrial and commercial buildings and multi-family dwellings. Quebec reported decreases in every component except single-family dwellings.

Higher value of permits in most metropolitan areas

The total value of permits rose in 23 of Canada's 34 census metropolitan areas.

The largest increases occurred in Toronto, Winnipeg and St. John's. The advances in both Toronto and St. John's originated from higher construction intentions for institutional and commercial buildings.

In Winnipeg, the gain came from higher construction intentions for both non-residential and residential buildings.

The largest decreases were in Montréal and Edmonton. In Montréal, the decline was mainly attributable to lower intentions for multi-family dwellings and industrial buildings.

Edmonton's decline was the result of a decrease in the value of permits for industrial and institutional buildings and multi-family dwellings.

Note to readers

Unless otherwise stated, this release presents seasonally adjusted data, which facilitates comparisons by removing the effects of seasonal variations.

The Building Permits Survey covers 2,400 municipalities representing 95% of the population. It provides an early indication of building activity.

The communities representing the other 5% of the population are very small, and their levels of building activity have little impact on the total.

The value of planned construction activities shown in this release excludes engineering projects (for example, waterworks, sewers or culverts) and land.

For the purpose of this release, the census metropolitan area of Ottawa–Gatineau (Ontario/Quebec) is divided into two areas: Gatineau part and Ottawa part.


Preliminary data are provided for the current reference month. Revised data, based on late responses, are updated for the previous month.

Available without charge in CANSIM: tables CANSIM table026-0001 to 026-0008 and CANSIM table026-0010.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number survey number2802.

The March 2012 issue of Building Permits (Catalogue number64-001-X, free) will soon be available.

The April building permits data will be released on June 5.

For more information, contact Statistics Canada's National Contact Centre (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 613-951-8116;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Mariane Nozière Bien-Aimé (613-951-7520), Investment, Science and Technology Division.