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Building permits, September 2013

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Released: 2013-11-06

Contractors took out $6.5 billion worth of building permits in September, up 1.7% from August and the seventh monthly advance since the beginning of the year. However, there has only been a slight upward trend in the total value of building permits over the nine-month period. The September increase came from the residential sector, mainly in Alberta and 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

The total value of residential building permits rose 3.3% to $4.1 billion, following a 4.8% decline in August. Residential construction intentions increased in five provinces, led by Alberta and Quebec.

In the non-residential sector, the value of permits edged down 0.8% in September to $2.5 billion. This was the third decrease in four months. Declines in Alberta and Manitoba offset gains in the other eight provinces. Quebec registered the largest increase, followed by British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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

Construction intentions for single-family dwellings rose 3.4% in September to $2.2 billion, the fourth increase in six months. Advances were posted in six provinces, with Ontario and Alberta accounting for most of the gain.

Construction intentions for multi-family dwellings increased 3.3% in September to $1.8 billion, following a 7.3% decline in August. The gain in September came from higher construction intentions in six provinces, with Alberta and Quebec accounting for most of the national advance.

Nationally, Canadian municipalities approved the construction of 17,310 new dwellings, down 1.4% from August. The decline was the result of a 5.1% drop in multi-family dwellings to 10,825 units. The number of permits issued for single-family dwellings rose 5.6% to 6,485 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 the commercial and industrial components

Canadian municipalities issued $1.4 billion worth of commercial building permits in September, down 0.2% from August and the second consecutive monthly decrease. The decline was the result of lower construction intentions in a variety of commercial buildings, including office buildings, hotels and restaurants, retail complexes and warehouses. Gains posted in six provinces, led by Saskatchewan, failed to offset declines in the remaining provinces.

The total value of industrial building permits fell 13.4% to $460 million in September, the third decline in four months. The value of industrial building permits was down in six provinces. The decrease was mainly the result of lower construction intentions for utilities buildings in Alberta and Ontario, as well as manufacturing plants in Quebec and British Columbia.

In the institutional component, the value of permits increased 9.8% to $601 million in September, following a significant decrease in August. The value of institutional building permits was up in half of the provinces. Quebec and British Columbia accounted for much of the gain, as a result of higher construction intentions for educational institutions, medical facilities and government buildings in Quebec and for educational facilities and nursing homes in British Columbia.

Provinces: Quebec and Alberta post large increases

In September, the value of building permits advanced in six provinces. Quebec posted the largest advance followed by Alberta.

The large increase in Quebec occurred mainly as a result of higher construction intentions for multi-family dwellings and institutional buildings. In Alberta, both single and multiple-family dwelling buildings were responsible for the gains.

Newfoundland and Labrador followed a distant third, with higher construction intentions for industrial buildings accounting for the gain.

The largest decrease in total value of permits occurred in Ontario, mainly as a result of lower construction intentions for multi-family dwellings. The decrease in Manitoba was a result of a decline in the value of permits for institutional and commercial buildings.

Significant gains in construction intentions in Edmonton, Montréal and Ottawa

The total value of permits was up in half of Canada's 34 census metropolitan areas.

Edmonton, Montréal and Ottawa recorded the largest increases. The advance in Edmonton was tied to residential buildings and commercial structures. Montréal's gain stemmed from institutional buildings as well as multiple-family dwellings. The increase in Ottawa was driven by higher construction intentions for commercial buildings and multi-family dwellings.

In contrast, the largest declines were registered in Winnipeg, followed by Toronto and Vancouver. Lower construction intentions for institutional buildings and, to a lesser degree, commercial buildings and multi-family dwellings were responsible for the decline in Winnipeg. The drop in Toronto came primarily from multi-family dwellings. In Vancouver, the decrease resulted largely from multi-family dwellings and commercial buildings.

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

The October building permits data will be released on December 5.

Contact information

For more information, 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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