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Investment in building construction, March 2020

Released: 2020-06-01

Total investment in building construction

$15.4 billion

March 2020

3.6% decrease

(monthly change)

Total investment in building construction decreased 3.6% to $15.4 billion in March, with declines in both residential (-3.3% to $10.5 billion) and non-residential (-4.3% to $4.9 billion) investment. Construction in March was negatively affected by COVID-19 restrictions, especially in Quebec which shut down all non-essential building construction on March 25. National declines coincided with a drop in construction hours worked in March, as reported by Statistics Canada's Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours.

On a quarterly basis, total investment edged up 1.0% in the first quarter compared with the fourth quarter of 2019.

On a constant dollar basis (2012=100), investment in building construction decreased by 4.1% to $12.5 billion.

For more information on housing, please visit the Housing Statistics Portal.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Investment in building construction, seasonally adjusted
Investment in building construction, seasonally adjusted

Investment in residential construction

Quebec (-18.7% to $2.0 billion) and British Columbia (-2.9% to $1.9 billion) contributed to the majority of declines in residential construction investment in March, outweighing gains in six other provinces. Quebec reported its largest decrease since the beginning of the current series in 2010, down $462.9 million for the month.

The overall decline in residential investment in March was driven by the multi-unit dwellings component, which fell 6.9% to $5.2 billion. Six provinces posted declines, with the largest decrease in Quebec (-23.3% to $1.1 billion).

The single-unit dwelling component of residential investment rose slightly in March, up 0.6% to $5.3 billion. Ontario led in provincial gains, up 5.8% to $2.4 billion, bouncing back from a 6.0% drop from September 2019 to February 2020. Quebec (-13.0%), New Brunswick (-5.0%) and Manitoba (-0.5%) were the only provinces to post declines in single-unit construction investment for the month.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Investment in residential building construction, seasonally adjusted
Investment in residential building construction, seasonally adjusted

Infographic 1  Thumbnail for Infographic 1: Residential construction investment, March 2020
Residential construction investment, March 2020

Investment in non-residential construction

All three components of non-residential investment decreased in March, leading to the first overall decline (-4.3% to $4.9 billion) since November 2018. Prince Edward Island was the only province to report growth in non-residential investment for the month, up 1.4% to $18.8 million. The increase was driven, in part, by the expansion of BioVectra's manufacturing facility in Charlottetown.

The commercial component posted the largest declines in non-residential investment, decreasing 4.2% to $2.9 billion. Quebec (-14.1%) and British Columbia (-4.6%) reported the majority of the declines in March, while Ontario was the only province to post an increase, edging up 0.3% to $1.1 billion.

The institutional component fell 4.2% to $1.1 billion. Seven provinces reported declines for the month, with the largest drop in Quebec (-12.1% to $275.9 million).

The industrial component decreased 5.0% to $886.7 million in March, with declines in eight provinces.

Infographic 2  Thumbnail for Infographic 2: Non-residential construction investment, March 2020
Non-residential construction investment, March 2020

First quarter of 2020

In the first quarter, total investment in building construction increased 1.0% (+$445.8 million) compared with the fourth quarter of 2019. Ontario (+2.0%) led the provinces in investment growth for the quarter. A strong January and February led Quebec to the second-largest quarterly growth in investment (+3.4%), despite reporting a sharp decline in March. In contrast, Manitoba (-$90.7 million) and British Columbia (-$77.5 million) reported the most significant declines for the quarter.

Residential investment increased in the first quarter, up 0.8% to $32.0 billion, with increases in multi-unit dwellings (+1.3%) outpacing those in single-unit dwellings (+0.3%). Multi-unit construction investment has outpaced single-unit dwellings for 8 out of the last 10 quarters. Quebec and Ontario reported the largest gains in residential construction, while Manitoba posted a notable decline for the quarter.

Non-residential investment increased quarter over quarter, up 1.2% to $15.0 billion. Ontario and Quebec had the strongest growth, while British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan reported the largest declines. Despite a slow March, all three components of non-residential investment increased in the first quarter of 2020. Commercial investment increased 1.8% to $8.9 billion, while institutional investment edged up 0.3% to $3.4 billion and industrial investment rose 0.5% to $2.7 billion.

  Note to readers

Unadjusted data for the current reference month are subject to revision as a result of late responses. Data for the previous month have been revised. Seasonally adjusted data are revised for the previous two months.

Data presented in this release are seasonally adjusted and are expressed in current dollars unless otherwise stated. Using seasonally adjusted data facilitates month-to-month comparisons by removing the effects of seasonal variations. For information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally adjusted data – Frequently asked questions.

Monthly estimates for constant dollars are calculated using quarterly deflators from the Building Construction Price Index (table 18-10-0135-01). Typically, the first two months of a quarter use the previous quarter's price level and are revised when the new quarterly price index becomes available.

Detailed data on investment activity by type of building and type of work are now available in the unadjusted current dollar series.

Prior to January 2018, building permits for cottages with a value greater than $60,000 were automatically reclassified to structure type "single." Beginning in January 2018, building permits received from municipalities for structures coded as cottages, regardless of value, are classified to structure type "cottages."

Effective November 23, 2018, table 34-10-0175-01 contains data on both the residential and non-residential sectors. It replaced tables 34-10-0010-01, 34-10-0011-01 and 34-10-0012-01.


Statistics Canada has a new Housing Market Indicators Dashboard. This web application provides access to key housing market indicators for Canada, by province and by census metropolitan area. These indicators are automatically updated with new information from monthly releases, giving users access to the latest data.

Next release

Data on investment in building construction for April will be released on June 22.

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; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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