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Monthly Survey of Manufacturing, April 2021

Released: 2021-06-14

Manufacturing sales fell 2.1% to $57.1 billion in April, on lower sales in 11 of 21 industries. Much of the decline was attributable to lower sales of transportation equipment and petroleum and coal products.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Manufacturing sales
Manufacturing sales

The machinery industry posted the largest sales gain, followed by the wood product and chemical industries.

Manufacturing sales excluding the transportation equipment industry increased 1.5% in April, the 12th consecutive monthly gain.

Sales in constant dollars decreased 3.3% to $49.1 billion in April, indicating a lower volume of goods sold. The Industrial Product Price Index increased 1.6% in April, while prices of raw materials were up 1.0%. Higher prices for lumber and other wood products (+6.4%), meat, fish and dairy products (+4.1%), primary ferrous metal products (+2.9%), and chemicals and chemical products (+1.5%) contributed the most to the industrial product price increase in April.

Semiconductor chip shortage stalls motor vehicle and parts manufacturing

Although the Canadian auto industry has been affected by the global shortage of semiconductor chips since January, the impact worsened in April as every major auto manufacturer had to halt or ramp down production. Motor vehicle sales were down by over one-third (-36.5%) to $2.3 billion in April, the largest month-over-month decrease since April 2020. In the motor vehicle parts industry, sales fell 19.0% to $1.9 billion, the lowest level since May 2020. The semiconductor chip supply shortage is expected to continue throughout the second quarter. Exports of motor vehicles and parts decreased 18.1% in April.

Following six consecutive monthly increases, sales of petroleum and coal products declined 7.1% to $5.1 billion in April because of maintenance shutdowns at some refineries. Despite the decline, year-over-year sales were up 160.7% from the unprecedented lows during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Petroleum product sales in constant dollars decreased 4.9% in April.

Sales of non-metallic mineral products declined 5.6% to $1.4 billion, on lower sales in all industries except cement and concrete product manufacturing. Despite the decline, sales were up 57.3% year over year.

Machinery sales rose 14.6% to $3.7 billion in April, the highest level on record. Year over year, sales of machinery increased 29.3%.

Wood product sales rose 6.5% to a record-high $4.9 billion in April, mainly on higher prices. Sawmills and wood preservation manufacturing accounted for most of the gain.

Sales of chemicals rose 5.0% to $5.1 billion in April, on higher sales of basic chemicals, as well as resin, synthetic rubber, and artificial and synthetic fibres and filaments.

Sales also increased in the food (+1.1%) and primary metal (+2.2%) industries in April.

Ontario posts the largest sales decline

Manufacturing sales declined in five provinces in April, led by Ontario. Alberta posted the largest increase.

In Ontario, sales fell 5.5% to $23.9 billion in April, the lowest level since June 2020. Following a sales increase in March, many auto and auto part assembly plants had to ramp down production again in April because of the semiconductor chip shortage, resulting in lower sales of motor vehicles (-37.7%) and motor vehicle parts (-19.6%).

The declines were partially offset by higher sales of machinery (+15.3%), primary metals (+5.3%) and chemicals (+3.8%).

Sales in Nova Scotia decreased 14.8% to $816.3 million on lower sales in the transportation equipment industry. On a year-over-year basis, sales in Nova Scotia were up 21.5%.

In Alberta, sales rose 6.5% to $6.9 billion, the eighth consecutive month-over-month increase and the highest level since May 2019. Higher sales of food (+7.4%), machinery (+23.2%) and chemicals (+8.3%) contributed the most to the increase. Sales in Alberta were up by nearly half (+48.4%) compared with the same period a year earlier.

Motor vehicle sales in Toronto stall

Manufacturing sales on an unadjusted basis fell in all 12 census metropolitan areas covered by the survey in April, led by Toronto and Montréal.

Sales in Toronto decreased 14.5% to $9.1 billion in April, on lower sales of motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts. Motor vehicle sales dropped by nearly half (-49.7%) in April as all auto assembly plants in Toronto lowered production because of the semiconductor chip shortage.

In Montréal, sales fell 9.6% to $6.4 billion, driven by lower production of aerospace products (-21.1%). Nevertheless, sales in Montréal were up 42.7% compared with April a year earlier.

Inventory levels rise

Total inventories rose 0.8% to $89.2 billion in April on higher inventories of machinery (+5.0%), motor vehicles (+8.7%) and food (+1.5%). Inventories were down in the aerospace product and parts (-2.2%) and the non-metallic mineral product (-7.5%) industries.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Inventory levels rise
Inventory levels rise

The inventory-to-sales ratio increased from 1.52 in March to 1.56 in April. The ratio measures the time, in months, that would be required to exhaust inventories if sales were to remain at their current level.

Chart 3  Chart 3: The inventory-to-sales ratio increases
The inventory-to-sales ratio increases

Unfilled orders edge down

Unfilled orders edged down 0.1% to $87.0 billion in April on lower unfilled orders of aerospace products and parts (-1.2%) and computer and electronic products (-6.1%). On a year-over-year basis, unfilled orders were down 11.4%.

Chart 4  Chart 4: Unfilled orders edge down
Unfilled orders edge down

The total value of new orders decreased 2.5% to $57.0 billion in April, driven by lower new orders in the transportation equipment industry (-20.8%). New orders rose 8.5% at chemical manufacturers.

Capacity utilization rate declines

The capacity utilization rate (not seasonally adjusted) for the total manufacturing sector fell from 80.1% in March to 75.6% in April, driven by lower production.

Chart 5  Chart 5: The capacity utilization rate declines
The capacity utilization rate declines

The capacity utilization rate of the transportation equipment industry fell 23.8 percentage points, attributable to lower production at motor vehicle assembly and motor vehicle parts plants associated with the semiconductor chip shortage.

The capacity utilization rate for the petroleum and coal product industry declined 4.0 percentage points to 79.3%. Turnaround and maintenance work at some refineries were behind most of the decline. The capacity utilization rate of chemical manufacturers rose 2.7 percentage points.

Sustainable development goals

On January 1, 2016, the world officially began implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—the United Nations' transformative plan of action that addresses urgent global challenges over the following 15 years. The plan is based on 17 specific sustainable development goals.

The Monthly Survey of Manufacturing is an example of how Statistics Canada supports the reporting on the global sustainable development goals. This release will be used to help measure the following goal:

  Note to readers

Monthly data in this release are seasonally adjusted and are expressed in current dollars unless otherwise specified.

Seasonally adjusted data are data that have been modified to eliminate the effect of seasonal and calendar influences to allow for more meaningful comparisons of economic conditions from period to period. For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally adjusted data – Frequently asked questions.

Trend-cycle estimates are included in selected charts as a complement to the seasonally adjusted series. These data represent a smoothed version of the seasonally adjusted time series and provide information on longer-term movements, including changes in direction underlying the series. For information on trend-cycle data, see Trend-cycle estimates – Frequently asked questions.

Both seasonally adjusted data and trend-cycle estimates are subject to revision as additional observations become available. These revisions could be large and could even lead to a reversal of movement, especially for reference months near the end of the series or during periods of economic disruption.

Non-durable goods industries include food, beverage and tobacco products, textile mills, textile product mills, clothing, leather and allied products, paper, printing and related support activities, petroleum and coal products, chemicals, and plastics and rubber products.

Durable goods industries include wood products; non-metallic mineral products; primary metals; fabricated metal products; machinery; computer and electronic products; electrical equipment, appliances and components; transportation equipment; furniture and related products; and miscellaneous manufacturing.

Production-based industries

For the aerospace and shipbuilding industries, the value of production is used instead of the value of sales of goods manufactured. The value of production is calculated by adjusting monthly sales of goods manufactured by the monthly change in inventories of goods in process and finished products manufactured. The value of production is used because of the extended period of time that it normally takes to manufacture products in these industries.

Unfilled orders are a stock of orders that will contribute to future sales, assuming that the orders are not cancelled.

New orders are those received, whether sold in the current month or not. New orders are measured as the sum of sales for the current month plus the change in unfilled orders from the previous month to the current month.

Manufacturers reporting sales, inventories and unfilled orders in US dollars

Some Canadian manufacturers report sales, inventories and unfilled orders in US dollars. These data are then converted to Canadian dollars as part of the data production cycle.

For sales, based on the assumption that they occur throughout the month, the average monthly exchange rate for the reference month established by the Bank of Canada is used for the conversion. The monthly average exchange rate is available in table 33-10-0163-01. Inventories and unfilled orders are reported at the end of the reference period. For most respondents, the daily average exchange rate on the last working day of the month is used for the conversion of these variables.

However, some manufacturers choose to report their data as of a day other than the last day of the month. In these instances, the daily average exchange rate on the day selected by the respondent is used. Note that because of exchange rate fluctuations, the daily average exchange rate on the day selected by the respondent can differ from both the exchange rate on the last working day of the month and the monthly average exchange rate. Daily average exchange rate data are available in table 33-10-0036-01.

Revision policy

Each month, the Monthly Survey of Manufacturing releases preliminary data for the reference month and revised data for the three previous months. Revisions are made to reflect new information provided by respondents and updates to administrative data.

Once a year, a revision project is undertaken to revise multiple years of data.

Real-time data tables

Real-time data tables 16-10-0118-01, 16-10-0119-01, 16-10-0014-01 and 16-10-0015-01 will be updated on June 22.

Next release

Data from the Monthly Survey of Manufacturing for May will be released on July 14.

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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