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Building permits, January 2013

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Released: 2013-03-07

Municipalities issued building permits worth $5.8 billion in January, up 1.7% from December. The increase in the residential sector more than offset a decrease in the non-residential sector. Despite the advance, the total value of building permits has been trending downwards since October 2012.

The increase in construction intentions came from every province except Alberta and Quebec. New Brunswick posted the largest advance followed closely by Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Total value of permits - Description and data table
Total value of permits

Chart 1: Total value of permits - Description and data table

In the residential sector, the value of permits increased 17.6% to $3.8 billion in January, following six consecutive months of decline. Ontario had the largest gain, with British Columbia a distant second followed closely by New Brunswick. These gains more than offset decreases in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba. However, residential construction intentions are continuing a downward trend that began in July 2012.

Construction intentions in the non-residential sector fell 19.2% to $2.0 billion, following a 7.8% decrease the previous month. Ontario, Quebec and Alberta were responsible for most of the decline. Non-residential construction intentions rose in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador. The total value of non-residential permits has been on an upward trend since June 2012, following a relatively flat period that began in May 2011.

Residential sector: Higher construction intentions for both multi-family and single-family dwellings

Construction intentions for multi-family dwellings rose 38.0% to $1.6 billion in January. It was the first increase in seven months. The advance was principally attributable to higher construction intentions in Ontario, British Columbia and New Brunswick.

Municipalities issued $2.3 billion worth of building permits for single-family dwellings in January, up 6.6% from December. This was the second increase in seven months. Higher construction intentions in Ontario more than offset decreases in four provinces, led by Quebec and Manitoba.

Municipalities approved the construction of 16,002 new dwellings in January, up 15.6% from December. The increase was largely the result of a 25.9% gain in multi-family units to 9,550. The number of permits issued for single-family dwellings rose 3.0% to 6,452 units.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Residential and non-residential sectors  - Description and data table
Residential and non-residential sectors

Chart 2: Residential and non-residential sectors  - Description and data table

Non-residential sector: Declines in all components

Construction intentions in the commercial component decreased 15.2% to $1.3 billion, a second consecutive monthly decrease and their lowest level since February 2012. Despite these declines, commercial intentions have been on a continuous upward trend since November 2011.

Construction intentions for commercial buildings were down in every province except Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba. Ontario and Quebec had the largest declines. The decrease in January came from a variety of buildings, including retail complexes, hotels and restaurants as well as warehouses in Ontario and office buildings in Quebec.

The value of institutional permits declined 26.7% to $366 million in January, falling to their lowest level since January 2012. This was the third decrease in a row. The decline was largely attributable to lower construction intentions for educational institutions in Ontario, Alberta and Quebec as well as medical facilities in Alberta. Institutional construction intentions have been trending slightly downwards for eight months.

Construction intentions in the industrial component fell 25.6% to $296 million in January. This was the third consecutive monthly decrease following a record high in October. Industrial construction intentions have been on a downward trend since June 2012. This follows a continuous year-long increase that began in June 2011.

The decrease in January was largely the result of lower construction intentions for mining and primary industry buildings in Ontario, manufacturing buildings in Alberta and utilities buildings in Ontario and Quebec. Industrial construction intentions decreased in seven provinces, led by Ontario, with Quebec a distant second.

Most provinces post gains

Construction intentions advanced in eight provinces in January. New Brunswick posted the largest advance followed closely by Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

In New Brunswick, construction intentions more than tripled following two consecutive monthly declines. The increase was a result of higher construction intentions for residential and institutional buildings.

In Saskatchewan, construction intentions grew on the strength of higher construction intentions for single family dwellings and commercial buildings.

A 10.9% increase in British Columbia was attributable to higher construction intentions for multi-family dwellings and institutional buildings.

In Ontario (+2.1%), higher residential construction intentions offset declines in non-residential components.

The largest decrease occurred in Quebec, where all components except multi-family dwellings fell.

In Alberta, the value of permits for institutional and commercial buildings was behind the decline.

Just over half of the census metropolitan areas post increases

The value of permits was up in 18 of the 34 census metropolitan areas.

Toronto, Vancouver and Saskatoon recorded the largest gains. Toronto reported advances in residential buildings. Vancouver's gain came from multi-family dwellings and institutional buildings, both of which had decreased the previous month. In Saskatoon, the increase came mainly from higher construction intentions for commercial buildings and single-family dwellings.

The largest declines occurred in Montréal and Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo. In Montréal, the decline originated from lower construction intentions for commercial buildings and to a lesser extent single-family dwellings and industrial buildings. In Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo, lower construction intentions for institutional buildings were behind the decrease.

  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.

With this release, seasonal adjustments were reviewed to take into account the most recent seasonal variation from the series. Revised monthly seasonally adjusted estimates for the three previous years are released at the same time as the annual revision to the unadjusted data of 2012.

The trend-cycle estimates have been added on the graphs as a complement to the seasonally adjusted series. Both the seasonally adjusted and the trend-cycle estimates are subject to revision as additional observations become available. These revisions could be large and even lead to a reversal of movement, especially at the end of the series. The higher variability associated with the trend-cycle estimates is indicated with a dotted line on the graph.

The January 2013 issue of Building Permits (Catalogue number64-001-X) will soon be available.

Building permits data for February will be released on April 9.

Contact information

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.

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