Wholesale trade, January 2022
Wholesale sales increase for a sixth consecutive month
Sales in the wholesale sector rose 4.2% in January to $79.8 billion. January's increase marks the six consecutive month of growth in the sector, and was the largest since June 2020. Gains were widespread in the sector, with five of seven subsectors that represent 72% of total wholesale sales reporting higher sales.
Sales volumes rose 3.8% in January.
Three subsectors post large gains
Sales in three subsectors jumped more than $1 billion each in January: building material and supplies, personal and household goods, and machinery, equipment and supplies.
Growth for the month was led by building material and supplies, which rose 14.0% to $14.1 billion, the sixth consecutive monthly increase for the subsector. The strong increase for the month reflects higher sales to export markets, as exports of lumber and sawmill products jumped 16.3% and exports of plastic and foam building and construction materials rose 20.1%. Notably, the price of lumber and other wood products—as measured by the Industrial Product Price Index—rose 11.8% in January, indicating that the increased level of nominal sales in the building material and supplies wholesale subsector had both a price and volume component.
Personal and household goods sales rose for the third consecutive month, up 10.6% to $12.2 billion. Sales topped $11 billion for the first time in December 2021, and promptly grew to more than $12 billion in January. More than 80% of the gains in January came from the pharmaceuticals and pharmacy supplies subsector, particularly companies whose products are being used directly in the fight against COVID-19.
Sales in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector rose 6.6% to $16.8 billion, the fifth consecutive monthly increase. Three of the four industries in the subsector reported higher sales in January, led by the construction, forestry, mining and industrial machinery, equipment and supplies industry which posted a 15.2% gain. The increase in the subsector was driven by domestic demand, given that exports of industrial machinery equipment and parts fell 0.8% in January.
The largest decline in the sector came in the motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts and accessories subsector, which fell 5.8% to $11.1 billion in January. Prior to this month's decline, sales had increased 18.6% over the three months making up the fourth quarter of 2021. January's decline reflects lower exports and imports of motor vehicles in the month as supply chain issues continue to plague the subsector.
Higher sales in nine provinces
Wholesale sales increased in nine provinces and two territories in January, accounting for 98% of national sales. Ontario, Alberta, and Quebec led the increase, posting record high sales. Their growth accounted for 81% of national gains.
In Ontario, sales rose for the seventh consecutive month, up 3.0% to $40.1 billion. The building material and supplies subsector led the province with sales of $6.0 billion, a 13.5% increase from December. All component industries saw gains in January. Over half of the subsector's increase came from the lumber, millwork, hardware and other building supplies industry. Higher sales in the personal and household goods (+6.1%) and machinery, equipment and supplies (+5.1%) subsectors also contributed to Ontario's overall gains. Only the motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts and accessories subsector reported declining sales, falling 6.6% to $7.4 billion after posting three months of gains.
Sales in Alberta grew 8.0% to $8.4 billion in January. Six of the seven subsectors reported higher sales, led by the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector, which rose 13.6% to $2.6 billion. Sales of construction, forestry, mining and industrial machinery, equipment and supplies accounted for over two-thirds of the subsector's growth. The building material and supplies subsector also contributed to the province's growth with a jump of 13.8% in sales for a monthly total of $1.5 billion.
Rounding out the top three, Quebec saw gains of 5.4% in sales, reaching $15.6 billion. While four of the seven subsectors reported lower sales, the strength of the personal and household goods and the building material and supplies subsectors more than made up the difference. Sales in the personal and household goods subsector have increased in 9 of the last 11 months and expanded another 20.0% to $4.0 billion. As in all the other provinces, the building material and supplies subsector grew in Quebec as well, rising 20.3% to $2.9 billion.
Wholesalers' inventories shrank 0.8% to $105.9 billion, following eight consecutive months of growth and a record high in December 2021. Inventories were 16.2% higher at the end of January 2022 than at the end of January 2021. Inventories decreased in five subsectors, comprising 52% of the sector's monthly inventories.
The largest change was among motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts and accessories merchant wholesalers, whose inventories fell 9.6% to $11.6 billion. All industries in the subsector had smaller inventories in January, with motor vehicle wholesalers reporting a 13.5% decrease to $6.4 billion. The motor vehicle industry holds 55% of the subsector's inventories, but accounted for 81% of the decrease in the sector. Manufacturer sales in the automotive assembly and automotive parts industry decreased in January while unfilled orders increased, meaning new orders received in January outpaced the ability of Canadian assembly plants to fill them, which resulted in wholesale inventories being pulled downward.
Personal and household goods inventories fell 3.5% to $17.5 billion. Inventories of pharmaceuticals and pharmacy supplies decreased 5.9% to $8.0 billion. The industry's inventories comprised 45% of inventories in the subsector. The Omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic began in late December and peaked in late January. The Government of Canada announced agreements to acquire oral antiviral medications to treat COVID-19 in December and announced the receipt of some antiviral medications in January. Textile, clothing and footwear inventories decreased 7.9% to $3.2 billion. Inventories in the home entertainment equipment and household appliance; personal goods; and toiletries, cosmetics and sundries industries were up.
Machinery, equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers' inventories grew 2.8% to $29.6 billion. A 8.0% increase in construction, forestry, mining, and industrial machinery, equipment and supplies to $13.9 billion more than offset decreases in all the sector's other component industries. Roughly half of inventories in the subsector are in the construction, forestry, mining, and industrial machinery, equipment and supplies industry.
The inventory-to-sales ratio decreased from 1.39 in December to 1.33 in January. This ratio is a measure of the time (in months) required to exhaust inventories if sales were to remain at their levels.
Note to readers
All data in this release are seasonally adjusted and expressed in current dollars, unless otherwise noted.
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 disruptions.
Total wholesale sales expressed in volume are calculated by deflating current dollar values using relevant price indexes. The wholesale sales series in chained (2012) dollars is a chained Fisher volume index, with 2012 as the reference year. For more information, see Deflation of wholesale sales.
The Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey covers all industries within the wholesale trade sector, as defined by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), with the exception of oilseed and grain merchant wholesalers (NAICS 41112), petroleum and petroleum products merchant wholesalers (NAICS 412) and business-to-business electronic markets, and agents and brokers (NAICS 419).
Real-time data tables
Real-time data tables 20-10-0019-01, 20-10-0020-01 and 20-10-0005-01 will be updated soon.
Wholesale trade data for February 2022 will be released on April 14, 2022.
The product "Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey: Interactive Tool" (71-607-X) is available online. This product is based on the data published in the tables of the Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey: 20-10-0074-01, 20-10-0076-01 and 20-10-0003-01.
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