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Building permits, May 2013

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Released: 2013-07-08

Contractors took out building permits worth $7.3 billion in May, up 4.5% from April. The total value of building permits continued to trend upward on the strength of five consecutive monthly increases.

The increase in May came mainly from the residential sector in Ontario and the non-residential sector in Quebec.

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

Residential sector permit values increased 4.2% to $4.6 billion in May. This advance followed a 21.6% gain in April and was the third consecutive monthly increase. The gain in May was attributable to both single- and multi-family dwellings. The value of residential building permits was up in seven provinces led largely by Ontario, followed by Alberta and Nova Scotia. British Columbia posted the largest decline.

In the non-residential sector, the value of building permits rose 5.0% to $2.8 billion in May. Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba were behind most of the growth at the national level. Declines were recorded in Alberta, New Brunswick and British Columbia.

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

Construction intentions for single-family dwellings rose 4.4% in May to $2.3 billion, the fourth increase in five months. Advances were posted in eight provinces with Ontario, Alberta and Quebec accounting for most of the gain.

Building permits for multi-family dwellings recorded a third consecutive monthly increase, up 4.0% to $2.2 billion in May following a 51.2% advance in April. Numerous apartments and apartments-condominium projects in Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia contributed to sustaining the advance from April. Declines were registered in four provinces, with British Columbia posting the largest drop, followed by Saskatchewan.

Canadian municipalities authorized the construction of 20,048 new dwellings, 3.1% more than in April. The advance was attributable to both multi-family dwellings, which increased 3.5% to 13,649 units and single-family dwellings, which rose 2.3% to 6,399 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: Significant gains in the industrial component

In the industrial component, the value of permits rose 37.4% to $612 million in May. This was the third increase in four months. The growth was the result of higher construction intentions for manufacturing plants and utilities buildings in Ontario, for mining buildings in Saskatchewan and for manufacturing plants in British Columbia. Gains were posted in seven provinces.

In the institutional component, the value of permits declined 3.6% to $702 million in May, a second consecutive monthly decrease. The value of institutional building permits was down in four provinces, with New Brunswick accounting for much of the drop as a result of lower construction intentions for medical and educational buildings.

Canadian municipalities issued $1.5 billion worth of commercial building permits in May, down 0.6% from April. This followed a 17.3% increase the previous month. The decline was the result of lower construction intentions in a variety of commercial buildings, including office buildings and recreational facilities. Decreases were posted in three provinces, led by Alberta. Conversely, Quebec posted the largest gain, as a result of higher construction intentions for recreational facilities, office buildings as well as hotels and restaurants.

Provinces: Large increases in Ontario and Quebec

The value of permits was up in seven provinces in May, led by Ontario and Quebec.

The largest increase occurred in Ontario, mainly as a result of higher construction intentions for multi-family dwellings and industrial buildings. In Quebec, commercial and institutional buildings were responsible for the gains.

Manitoba followed a distant third, as a result of higher construction intentions for institutional buildings, commercial structures and, to a lesser extent, industrial buildings.

The largest decline occurred in British Columbia, where all components except industrial buildings fell. In New Brunswick, institutional construction intentions largely contributed to the decline.

Significant gains in construction intentions in Toronto and Montréal

In May, the total value of permits was up in 16 of the 34 census metropolitan areas.

The largest increases were in Toronto and Montréal, with Edmonton a distant third. In Toronto, the advance was principally attributable to multi-family dwellings. Higher intentions for industrial and commercial buildings explained the growth in Montréal. In Edmonton, construction intentions for residential dwellings and, to a lesser degree, for institutional buildings were behind the advance.

Calgary had the largest decline, followed by Vancouver and Victoria. After posting their third highest level on record the previous month, the value of permits issued in Calgary decreased 42.1%, largely the result of lower construction intentions for commercial buildings. In Vancouver, multi-family dwellings were responsible for the decline while in Victoria, 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. Data have been revised for the previous month.

The trend-cycle estimates have been added to the charts 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 chart.

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

Building permits data for June will be released on August 7.

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 Andrew Aston (613-951-0746), Investment, Science and Technology Division.

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