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Building permits, August 2013

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Released: 2013-10-07

Canadian municipalities issued building permits worth $6.3 billion in August, down 21.2% from July. This decline followed a 21.4% increase the previous month and was the result of lower construction intentions in both non-residential and residential sectors. With this decline, the trend in the value of building permits has become relatively flat since the beginning of 2013.

With the exception of British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, every province registered declines in August with Ontario, Alberta and Quebec posting the largest decreases.

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 non-residential sector, the total value of building permits fell 37.9% to $2.4 billion in August, its lowest level since February 2013. This drop offset a 47.3% increase in July. Every province, except Newfoundland and Labrador, posted declines.

The total value of permits in the residential sector decreased 5.4% to $3.9 billion in August, following a 4.2% increase in July. Lower construction intentions were posted in six provinces with Ontario, Quebec and Alberta registering the largest decreases. British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island recorded increases.

Non-residential sector: All three components down

Canadian municipalities issued $1.4 billion worth of commercial building permits in August, down 45.8% from July, when commercial construction intentions were $2.6 billion. The decline originated from lower construction intentions in a variety of commercial buildings, including office buildings, retail and wholesale outlets, retail complexes and recreational facilities. Decreases were posted in eight provinces, led by Ontario, followed by Alberta and Quebec. Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan were the two provinces to post gains.

In the institutional component, the value of permits fell 36.7% to $507 million in August, the fourth decrease in five months. The value of institutional building permits was down in seven provinces. Ontario accounted for much of the decrease as a result of lower construction intentions for medical facilities and educational institutions. Quebec, British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador posted advances, mainly as a result of higher construction intentions for medical facilities.

In the industrial component, the value of permits declined 1.2% to $526 million in August, following a 17.7% increase in July. Gains in five provinces failed to offset declines in the remaining provinces. Lower construction intentions for manufacturing plants were behind the national decline.

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

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

Building permits for multi-family dwellings decreased 8.3% to $1.7 billion in August, the third monthly decline this year. Declines were reported in half of the provinces, led by Ontario and followed by Quebec. British Columbia registered the largest increase, with Saskatchewan a distant second.

Construction intentions for single-family dwellings fell 3.0% to $2.2 billion in August. The decline in August failed to offset the increase in July. This was the second decrease in three months, bringing the year-to-date value down 7.5%. Lower construction intentions were posted in six provinces, with Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba accounting for most of the decline at the national level.

Nationally, municipalities approved the construction of 17,471 new dwellings in August, down 0.7% from July. The decline was attributable to lower construction intentions for single-family dwellings (down 3.4% to 6,087 dwellings), which offset an increase in multi-family dwellings (up 0.8% to 11,384 units).

Provinces: Large declines in Ontario, Alberta and Quebec

The total value of permits was down in eight provinces in August, led by Ontario, Alberta and Quebec.

The decrease in Ontario was mainly a result of lower construction intentions for commercial and institutional buildings, as well as multi-family dwellings. In Alberta, the decline was mostly attributable to commercial buildings, while in Quebec, it came mainly from commercial buildings and multi-family dwellings.

The largest increase occurred in British Columbia, where a rise in multi-family dwellings offset declines in the industrial and commercial components. In Newfoundland and Labrador, higher construction intentions for institutional buildings, single-family dwellings and commercial structures accounted for the advance.

Significant decreases in construction intentions in Toronto, Calgary and Montréal

In August, the total value of permits was down in 22 of the 34 census metropolitan areas.

The largest declines were in Toronto, followed by Calgary and Montréal. In Toronto, the decrease was largely attributable to commercial buildings, institutional structures and multi-family dwellings. Lower intentions for commercial and institutional buildings explained the decline in Calgary. The drop in Montréal originated from lower construction intentions for commercial and residential buildings.

Vancouver saw the largest increase in August, followed by Kelowna and Regina. In Vancouver, multi-family dwellings and commercial buildings were responsible for the advance, while in Kelowna and Regina, institutional and residential buildings were behind the gains.

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

The September building permits data will be released on November 6.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Jeremie Bennett (613-951-0793), Investment, Science and Technology Division.

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