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Building permits, December 2013

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Released: 2014-02-05

The total value of building permits issued by Canadian municipalities declined 4.1% to $6.5 billion in December, following a 6.6% decrease in November.

Lower construction intentions for commercial buildings and multi-family dwellings in Ontario and British Columbia were responsible for much of the decrease at the national level in December.

The total value of building permits for 2013 edged down 0.1% from 2012 to $80.8 billion.

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 permits in the residential sector fell for a second consecutive month, down 9.3% to $3.7 billion in December and the lowest level since March 2013. Lower construction intentions were posted in all provinces except Quebec and New Brunswick.

Overall for the year, the total value of residential building permits amounted to $48.3 billion, almost unchanged from the total value reached in 2012.

In the non-residential sector, the value of building permits rose 3.7% to $2.8 billion in December, following a 4.5% decrease the previous month. Quebec, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador were mostly responsible for the growth at the national level, while declines were recorded in the other provinces.

Between January and December 2013, municipalities issued non-residential building permits worth $32.5 billion, relatively unchanged from 2012.

Residential sector: Lower intentions for multi-family dwellings

Construction intentions for multi-family dwellings decreased 21.9% to $1.5 billion in December, following an 8.4% decline in November. Most of the decline occurred in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta. Despite decreasing in December, these three provinces posted strong gains in the value of multi-family dwelling permits in 2013 compared with the previous year.

Municipalities issued $2.2 billion worth of building permits for single-family dwellings in December, up 1.5% from November and the third increase in four months. Gains in Alberta, Quebec and Ontario more than offset decreases in five provinces, led by British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.

Municipalities approved the construction of 15,565 new dwellings in December, down 14.2% from November. The decrease in December was largely the result of a 21.3% decline in multi-family dwellings to 9,439 units. The number of single-family dwellings edged down 0.1% to 6,126 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: Sharp rise in the institutional and industrial components

In the institutional component, the value of permits more than doubled to $939 million in December, following a 32.8% decrease in November. This was the highest level since March 2013. Institutional construction intentions were up in five provinces, with the largest increases in construction intentions for medical facilities in Quebec and educational buildings in Alberta.

In the industrial component, the value of permits rose 34.9% to $576 million, the highest level since May 2013. This advance was the result of higher construction intentions for manufacturing plants in Ontario and Quebec. Decreases were posted in five provinces, led by Manitoba.

Following three consecutive monthly advances, Canadian municipalities issued $1.3 billion worth of commercial building permits in December, down 33.5% from November. The decline came mainly from lower construction intentions for office buildings in Ontario and recreational facilities and retail stores in British Columbia. In contrast, Quebec posted the largest gain, as a result of higher construction intentions for office buildings and, to a lesser degree, warehouses.

Provinces: Large declines in Ontario and British Columbia

The value of permits was down in seven provinces in December, with Ontario and British Columbia posting the largest declines.

The declines in Ontario and British Columbia were mostly attributable to commercial buildings and multi-family dwellings. Saskatchewan followed a distant third, as a result of lower construction intentions for commercial and institutional buildings as well as single-family dwellings.

Quebec recorded the largest increase, with institutional building construction intentions accounting for most of the growth. Institutional buildings and single-family dwellings explained the advance in Alberta.

In 2013, the total value of permits was down in six provinces compared with 2012. The largest decreases were in British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario. All three Prairie provinces posted advances, with Alberta registering the largest increase in the total value of permits for 2013. New Brunswick was the lone Atlantic province to post an advance in 2013.

Significant decrease in construction intentions in Toronto and Vancouver

In December, the total value of permits was down in 23 of the 34 census metropolitan areas.

The largest decreases were in Toronto and Vancouver, followed by Québec. In Toronto, the decline was principally attributable to commercial buildings. Lower intentions for multi-family dwellings and commercial buildings explained the decline in Vancouver. In Québec, commercial construction intentions and, to a lesser extent, residential buildings and institutional buildings were behind the decrease.

Montréal recorded the largest increase in December, followed by Hamilton. The value of permits issued in Montréal advanced largely as a result of higher construction intentions for institutional buildings while in Hamilton, industrial and commercial buildings were responsible for the advance.

  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. 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.

Building permits data are used as a leading indicator of activity in the construction industry.

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

Building permits data for January will be released on March 6.

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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