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Building permits, May 2016

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Released: 2016-07-07

Building permits — Canada

$6.8 billion

May 2016


(monthly change)

Building permits — N.L.

$57.7 million

May 2016


(monthly change)

Building permits — P.E.I.

$20.5 million

May 2016


(monthly change)

Building permits — N.S.

$118.0 million

May 2016


(monthly change)

Building permits — N.B.

$54.9 million

May 2016


(monthly change)

Building permits — Que.

$1,159.6 million

May 2016


(monthly change)

Building permits — Ont.

$2,811.5 million

May 2016


(monthly change)

Building permits — Man.

$199.7 million

May 2016


(monthly change)

Building permits — Sask.

$159.4 million

May 2016


(monthly change)

Building permits — Alta.

$916.2 million

May 2016


(monthly change)

Building permits — B.C.

$1,174.6 million

May 2016


(monthly change)

Building permits — Y.T.

$12.3 million

May 2016


(monthly change)

Building permits — N.W.T.

$106.6 million

May 2016


(monthly change)

Building permits — Nvt.

$0.2 million

May 2016


(monthly change)

Municipalities issued building permits worth $6.8 billion in May, down 1.9% from the previous month. Lower construction intentions for commercial buildings in Quebec and Ontario and single-family homes in Ontario contributed most to the decrease.

Chart 1  Chart 1 : Total value of permits
Total value of permits

The value of non-residential permits fell 3.3% to $2.5 billion in May, following a 1.9% increase in April. The decrease resulted mainly from lower construction intentions for commercial structures.

In the residential sector, the value of building permits was down 1.1% to $4.3 billion, following a 0.9% drop the previous month. The increase in the value of multi-family dwelling permits was not sufficient to offset the decline for single-family dwellings. Decreases were posted in six provinces, led by Alberta.

Non-residential sector: Lower construction intentions for commercial buildings

The value of commercial building permits was down 15.6% to $1.2 billion in May, a third consecutive monthly decline. The drop was largely the result of lower construction intentions for office buildings, recreational facilities and distribution warehouses. Decreases were reported in five provinces, led by Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.

In the industrial component, the value of permits edged up 0.6% to $384 million, after posting a 7.8% decline the previous month. The advance was attributable to higher construction intentions for manufacturing plants. Gains were reported in six provinces, led by Ontario and Quebec.

The value of institutional building permits was up 20.3% to $842 million, a second consecutive monthly advance. Higher construction intentions for medical facilities led the increase. The largest gain was recorded in the Northwest Territories, followed by Ontario and Quebec.

Chart 2  Chart 2 : Residential and non-residential sectors
Residential and non-residential sectors

Residential sector: Lower construction intentions for single-family dwellings

The value of permits for single-family dwellings decreased 7.2% to $2.3 billion in May, following three consecutive monthly increases. Declines were recorded in seven provinces, led by Ontario, followed distantly by New Brunswick and British Columbia.

In the multi-family dwellings component, the value of permits was up 7.1% to $2.0 billion in May, following a 5.8% decline in April. Advances were recorded in six provinces, led by Ontario, which had posted a 19.0% decline the previous month. Quebec and Nova Scotia were a distant second and third. In contrast, multi-family dwelling construction intentions in Alberta declined, following a 96.4% increase the previous month.

Municipalities approved the construction of 16,360 new dwellings in May, down slightly (-0.2%) from the previous month. The decline was the result of lower construction intentions for single-family dwellings, which decreased 10.6% to 5,519 new units. Multi-family homes were up 6.1% to 10,841 new units.

Provinces: Alberta posts the most notable decline

Lower construction intentions were posted in three provinces in May, led by Alberta, followed by Manitoba and New Brunswick. Conversely, the value of permits in the Northwest Territories reached a record high.

Following a 26.9% increase the previous month, the value of permits in Alberta fell 22.5% to $916 million in May. Every component posted a decline, except single-family dwellings. The decrease was led by multi-family dwellings and institutional structures.

The value of permits in Manitoba was down 32.3% to $200 million, after three consecutive monthly advances. Lower construction intentions for commercial and institutional buildings led the decline, although every component, except multi-family dwellings, posted a decrease.

In New Brunswick, the value of permits dropped 48.0% to $55 million, after posting strong gains the previous two months. Lower construction intentions were recorded for every component, led by single-family homes and institutional structures.

In contrast, the value of permits in the Northwest Territories reached a record high of $107 million in May. Higher construction intentions for institutional structures, specifically, medical facilities, were responsible for the advance.

Census metropolitan areas: Calgary registers the largest decrease

In May, the value of building permits was down in 16 of 34 census metropolitan areas. The largest declines were registered in Calgary, Winnipeg and Edmonton.

Following a 68.6% increase in April, the value of building permits in Calgary was down 34.8% in May. Every component recorded declines, led by multi-family dwellings, commercial structures and institutional structures.

In Winnipeg, the value of permits in May was down 40.2% to $137 million, following three consecutive monthly advances. The decline was led by lower construction intentions for commercial buildings and institutional structures.

The value of building permits in Edmonton was down 21.3% to $313 million, the second decline in three months. Lower construction intentions for institutional structures led the decrease.

In contrast, Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo and Vancouver recorded the largest gains, led by higher construction intentions for multi-family dwellings.

  Note to readers

Unless otherwise stated, this release presents seasonally adjusted data, which facilitates comparisons by removing the effects of seasonal variations. For information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally adjusted data – Frequently asked questions.

The Building Permits Survey covers over 2,400 municipalities, representing 95% of the Canadian 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 for the previous month have been revised.

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.

For information on trend-cycle data, see the StatCan Blog and Trend-cycle estimates – Frequently asked questions.

Next release

The June building permits data will be released on August 8.


The May 2016 issue of Building Permits (Catalogue number64-001-X) will soon be available.

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 Monia Bergeron (613-286-5152;, Investment, Science and Technology Division.

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