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Monthly Survey of Manufacturing, March 2024

Released: 2024-05-15

Canadian manufacturing sales decreased 2.1% to $69.9 billion in March, led by lower sales of petroleum and coal products (-8.0%) and motor vehicles (-7.9%). The machinery subsector experienced the largest increase, rising 2.9% to $4.5 billion in March.

Sales in constant dollars decreased 2.0% in March, indicating that a lower volume of goods was sold as the Industrial Product Price Index increased 0.8% in March.

On a quarterly basis, total manufacturing sales in current dollars were down 0.9% in the first quarter of 2024, primarily attributed to lower sales of transportation equipment (-3.0%) and primary metals (-4.4%).

Chart 1  Chart 1: Manufacturing sales
Manufacturing sales

Petroleum and coal sales decrease the most

Following a 5.7% increase in February, sales of petroleum and coal products decreased 8.0% to $8.0 billion in March, on lower volumes (-6.1%). Prices of refined petroleum energy products (including liquid biofuels) increased for the second consecutive month, rising 1.8% in March, while their exports decreased 5.8%. On a quarterly basis, sales of petroleum and coal products edged down 0.3% in the first quarter of 2024.

Following two consecutive monthly increases, sales of motor vehicles declined 7.9% to $4.6 billion in March, while sales of motor vehicle parts were down 2.8%. The ongoing retooling at several major auto assembly plants in Ontario continued to impact auto manufacturing and contributed to the lower sales of motor vehicles in March. The auto plant retooling also cooled auto exports, contributing to a 6.7% decline in exports of motor vehicles and parts in March, following two consecutive monthly gains. On a quarterly basis, sales of motor vehicles fell 4.1% in the first quarter of 2024.

Sales of machinery were up 2.9% to $4.5 billion in March, following three consecutive monthly decreases. The gain was attributable to elevated sales in all seven machinery industry groups, led by commercial and service industry machinery (+41.6%). On a quarterly basis, sales of machinery edged up 0.5% in the first quarter of 2024.

Sales decline in eight provinces, led by Ontario and Alberta

Manufacturing sales declined in eight provinces in March, led by Ontario (-2.4%) and Alberta (-5.3%). Manitoba posted the largest increase (+1.4%).

Sales in Ontario declined 2.4% to $30.7 billion in March, the lowest level since September 2022. Lower sales of motor vehicles (-7.9%) were mainly responsible for the decline in March 2024. Lower production due to retooling at several auto assembly plants was mainly responsible for the decline. On a quarterly basis, total sales in Ontario fell 0.5% to $93.9 billion in the first quarter of 2024.

In Alberta, sales were down 5.3% to $8.3 billion in March, mainly on lower sales in the petroleum and coal (-7.3%) and chemical product (-10.5%) subsectors. The petroleum and coal subsector also contributed to a 7.6% decline in total sales in Edmonton in March.

Sales in Manitoba rose 1.4% to $2.3 billion in March, largely on higher sales of chemicals. The gains were partially offset by lower sales in the transportation equipment subsector. With the increase posted for March, total sales in Manitoba rose 2.7% in the first quarter of 2024.

Total inventories are largely unchanged

Following three consecutive monthly declines, total inventories were largely unchanged at $121.0 billion in March. Higher inventories of goods in process (+2.3%) were completely offset by lower raw materials (-0.7%) and finished products (-0.7%). Inventories of aerospace products and parts (+3.6%) marked the largest increase, while inventories of computer and electronic products (-10.1%) declined the most. Total inventories were down 2.2% compared with March 2023.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Inventory levels are largely unchanged
Inventory levels are largely unchanged

The inventory-to-sales ratio rose from 1.69 in February to 1.73 in March. This 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 rises
The inventory-to-sales ratio rises

Unfilled orders edge down

Following three consecutive monthly increases, unfilled orders declined 0.8% to $104.8 billion in March. Lower unfilled orders for railroad rolling stock manufacturing contributed the most to the decline.

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

Capacity utilization rate decreases

The capacity utilization rate (not seasonally adjusted) for the total manufacturing sector decreased from 78.3% in February to 78.0% in March, on lower production. Capacity utilization rates were down in the petroleum and coal (-3.3 percentage points), chemical product (-2.0 percentage points), and fabricated metal (-3.0 percentage points) subsectors. These declines were partly offset by a higher capacity utilization rate in the wood product subsector (+5.3 percentage points).

Chart 5  Chart 5: The capacity utilization rate decreases
The capacity utilization rate decreases

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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

Starting with the May 2024 release of March data, estimates of sales of goods manufactured, inventories and orders in tables 16-10-0047-01, 16-10-0048-01 and 16-10-0011-01 have been revised back to January 2021 for unadjusted data, and back to January 2019 for seasonally adjusted data.

Real manufacturing sales, orders, inventory owned, and inventory-to-sales ratio estimates in table 16-10-0013-01 have been revised back to January 2019.

Unadjusted estimates of capacity utilization rates, in table 16-10-0012-01, have been revised back to January 2021.

Unadjusted and seasonally adjusted estimates of sales of goods manufactured for the 15 census metropolitan areas have been compiled from January 2013 to December 2017 and are available in table 16-10-0011-01.

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; apparel; 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 industry groups, 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 working 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 previous three 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 May 23.

Next release

Data from the Monthly Survey of Manufacturing for April will be released on June 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 (

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