Building permits, September 2012

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The total value of building permits fell 13.2% to $6.5 billion in September, following a 9.5% advance in August. The decline was mainly the result of the non-residential sector, where the value of permits in all three components fell.

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

Chart description: Total value of permits

CSV version of the chart

Construction intentions in the non-residential sector declined 30.8% to $2.2 billion after a 27.7% increase in August. Ontario and Quebec accounted for most of the decline at the national level. Non-residential construction intentions rose in four provinces, led by British Columbia and Nova Scotia.

In the residential sector, the value of permits edged up 0.4% to $4.2 billion, following two consecutive monthly decreases. Increases reported in four provinces offset declines in the others. Ontario posted the largest advance, followed by Quebec. The largest decline occurred in Alberta, with Newfoundland and Labrador a distant second.

Non-residential sector: Declines in all three components

The value of permits in the institutional component fell 44.5% to $586 million, after more than doubling in August. The main factors in the decline were lower construction intentions for medical facilities and educational institutions in Ontario and for government buildings in Quebec. Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Alberta posted increases.

Municipalities issued $320 million worth of permits for industrial buildings, a 52.1% drop from the previous month following three consecutive monthly increases. The decline was largely attributable to lower construction intentions for utilities-related buildings and manufacturing plants in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.

In the commercial component, the value of permits fell 11.8% to $1.3 billion, the second consecutive monthly decline. The decline originated from a variety of structures, including retail and wholesale outlets, office buildings, recreational facilities, warehouses, hotels and restaurants, and laboratories. Commercial construction intentions were down in six provinces, with Ontario posting the largest decrease, followed by Saskatchewan, Alberta and Quebec.

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: Increase in single-family dwellings offsets decline in multi-family dwellings

The value of permits for single-family dwellings advanced 3.4% to $2.5 billion, after two consecutive monthly declines. The increase was the result of higher construction intentions in four provinces. Ontario posted the largest gain, followed by British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Alberta registered the largest decrease.

Construction intentions for multi-family dwellings declined 3.8% to $1.7 billion, the third monthly decrease in a row. It was largely the result of lower construction intentions in Alberta, which had recorded a significant increase in August. Construction intentions also fell in five other provinces, including British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick.

Municipalities across Canada issued permits for the construction of 17,341 new dwellings in September, down 9.1% from the previous month.

The decline was the result of a 16.3% drop in multi-family dwellings to 9,935 units. The number of single-family dwellings rose 2.7% to 7,406 new units.

Declines in most provinces

The total value of permits fell in seven provinces in September, with the largest declines in Ontario and Alberta. Decreases also occurred in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island.

Following a strong gain in August, Ontario posted the largest decline in September, a result of lower construction intentions for non-residential buildings. In Alberta, the decrease was largely attributable to lower construction intentions for multi-family dwellings and for commercial and industrial buildings. The decrease in Quebec originated largely from all three components of the non-residential sector.

British Columbia posted the largest increase, followed by Nova Scotia and Manitoba. The advance in British Columbia came from commercial buildings and single-family dwellings. Nova Scotia's gain was the result of higher construction intentions for institutional structures, multi-family dwellings and commercial buildings. In Manitoba, residential homes, commercial buildings and industrial construction were behind the increase.

Most census metropolitan areas post decreases

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

Hamilton, Toronto and Calgary posted the largest decreases. In Hamilton, the decline was attributable to industrial buildings, multi-family dwellings and institutional buildings, all of which had posted gains the previous month.

The decrease in Toronto originated from non-residential buildings. In Calgary, the decline was the result of lower construction intentions for non-residential buildings and multi-family dwellings.

The largest increases occurred in Vancouver, Victoria and Saskatoon. The gain in Vancouver came from higher construction intentions for commercial buildings and, to a lesser extent, for single homes and industrial buildings.

Victoria's increase was the result of higher construction intentions for commercial and residential buildings. Institutional buildings and single-family dwellings were behind the advance in Saskatoon.

Note to readers

Unless otherwise stated, this release presents seasonally adjusted data, which facilitates comparisons by removing the effects of seasonal variations. For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonal adjustment and identifying economic trends.

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 for the entire population.

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.


Data for the current reference month are subject to revision based on late responses. Data have been revised 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 September 2012 issue of Building Permits (Catalogue number64-001-X, free) will soon be available.

The October building permits data will be released on December 6.

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Jason Aston (613-951-0746), Investment, Science and Technology Division.