Monthly Survey of Manufacturing, March 2012

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Manufacturing sales increased 1.9% in March to $49.7 billion, the largest advance since September 2011. The gain was led by the petroleum and coal products industry.

Sales rose in 13 of 21 industries, representing just over three-quarters of the manufacturing sector. Sales of durable goods increased 1.4%, while non-durable goods sales rose 2.4%.

Constant dollar sales advanced 1.9% in March, indicating an increase in the volume of manufactured goods sold. The increase was the largest since July 2011.

Chart 1 
Manufacturing sales increase
Chart 1: Manufacturing sales increase

Chart description: Manufacturing sales increase

CSV version of the chart

Sales gains led by the petroleum and coal products industry

Sales of petroleum and coal products increased 4.5% to $7.5 billion, the highest level since July 2008. The increase was largely the result of higher sales volumes at many oil refineries.

In the chemical industry, sales rose 3.2% to $3.9 billion. Most chemical manufacturers reported higher sales, largely reflecting greater volumes of products sold.

Production in the aerospace product and parts industry increased 9.9% to $1.4 billion.

Following an 8.6% decline in February, sales rose 2.3% in the motor vehicle assembly industry.

Although eight industries posted lower sales in March, most declines were relatively small. Sales decreased 1.2% in the primary metals industry and 1.6% in the plastics and rubber products industry.

Gains in seven provinces

Sales increased in seven provinces, representing more than 90% of Canadian manufacturing. Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec reported the largest gains.

In Ontario, growth was widespread as 15 of 21 industries posted higher sales. Sales advanced 1.9% to $22.4 billion, reflecting increases in the petroleum and coal products, motor vehicle assembly, chemical, and computer and electronic product industries. This was the first gain in sales in Ontario following two months of declines.

Sales in New Brunswick advanced 21.3% to $1.9 billion, reflecting increases in the non-durable goods industries. The level in March was the second-highest on record, $9 million below sales in September 2011.

In Quebec, manufacturers posted a 1.2% gain to $11.8 billion, with sales increasing in 9 of 21 industries. The increase was led by a 34.5% rise in aerospace product and parts manufacturing. This was the third advance in four months for this industry.

Inventory levels fall

Inventory levels fell 1.2% in March, the largest decline since September 2009. Inventories decreased in three of the last four months.

Petroleum and coal products manufacturers reported the largest drop in inventories, down 10.9% to $4.3 billion. Lower finished products inventories accounted for two-thirds of the decline, while one-third was attributable to decreases in raw material inventories.

Machinery manufacturers reduced inventories 2.3% to $6.7 billion, mainly as a result of lower raw materials inventories.

Chart 2 
Inventory levels fall
Chart 2: Inventory levels fall

Chart description: Inventory levels fall

CSV version of the chart

The inventory-to-sales ratio fell to 1.30 in March from 1.34 in February. The inventory-to-sales ratio is a measure of the time, in months, that would be required to exhaust inventories if sales were to remain at their current level.

Chart 3 
The inventory-to-sales ratio falls
Chart 3: The inventory-to-sales ratio falls

Chart description: The inventory-to-sales ratio falls

CSV version of the chart

Unfilled orders increase

In March, unfilled orders rose 2.0% to $62.6 billion, the second consecutive monthly increase. Unfilled orders were at their highest level since March 2009.

The advance reflected a 2.5% rise in the aerospace product and parts industry to $30.5 billion, the highest level in nearly three years. Excluding the aerospace industry, unfilled orders rose 1.5%.

The machinery industry reported a 3.5% gain to $8.3 billion, reflecting increased orders for construction machinery.

Chart 4 
Unfilled orders increase
Chart 4: Unfilled orders increase

Chart description: Unfilled orders increase

CSV version of the chart

New orders were up 2.0% in March, the second consecutive monthly increase. The advance was the result of increases in the transportation equipment, petroleum and coal products, and computer and electronic product industries.

Note to readers

All data in this release are seasonally adjusted and are expressed in current dollars unless otherwise specified.

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

Non-durable goods industries include food, beverage and tobacco products, textile mills, textile product mills, clothing, leather and allied products, paper, printing and related support activities, petroleum and coal products, chemicals, and plastics and rubber products.

Durable goods industries include wood products, non-metallic mineral products, primary metal, fabricated metal products, machinery, computer and electronic products, electrical equipment, appliances and components, transportation equipment, furniture and related products and miscellaneous manufacturing.

Production-based industries

For the aerospace industry and shipbuilding industries, the value of production is used instead of sales of goods manufactured. This value is calculated by adjusting monthly sales of goods manufactured by the monthly change in inventories of goods in process and finished products manufactured.

Unfilled orders are a stock of orders that will contribute to future sales assuming that the orders are not cancelled.

New orders are those received whether sold in the current month or not. New orders are measured as the sum of sales for the current month plus the change in unfilled orders from the previous month to the current month.

Available without charge in CANSIM: tables CANSIM table304-0014, CANSIM table304-0015 and CANSIM table377-0008.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number survey number2101.

Data from the April Monthly Survey of Manufacturing will be released on June 15.

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 Michael Schimpf (613-951-9832;, Manufacturing and Energy Division.