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In 2011, the construction industry outpaced the overall economy in both output and employment growth.

Construction accounted for 6.0% of Canada's GDP in 2011, contributing $76.5 billion. The industry grew 4.2% from 2010, greater than Canada's overall GDP growth of 2.6%. The strongest component was engineering, repair and other construction activities, which gained 7.0%. The other two components were residential building construction, which rose 1.6%, and non-residential building construction, up 0.4%.

From 2010 to 2011, construction employment rose by 3.7%, compared with 1.5% in all industries. Roughly 1.3 million people worked in construction in 2011, making it the fifth-largest employer by industry and accounting for 7.3% of jobs among all industries.

Building permits back to pre-recession levels

The value of building permits issued has increased every year since 1995, except during the 2008–2009 recession. In 2011, the total value was $74.0 billion, up 2.1% from 2010, and just below the pre-recession peak of $74.4 billion in 2007.

Of this total value, $44.5 billion was for residential buildings, up 2.3% from 2010; $29.5 billion was for non-residential building permits, a gain of 1.8%. Most of the non-residential permits were for commercial buildings—worth $16.3 billion, up 6.0% from 2010. Permits valuing $8.0 billion were issued for institutional and governmental buildings, a decrease of 5.6% from 2010; industrial building permits valued $5.2 billion, a gain of 1.5%.

Among the provinces, Ontario had the highest value of building permits with $28.0 billion, down 0.4% from 2010; Quebec was second with $15.5 billion, up 4.4% from 2010.

The Prairie provinces saw the largest annual gains in 2011: together, they rose 12.9% to $17.2 billion. Among the provinces, Saskatchewan had the highest increase across the Prairies and all of Canada, up 25.9% to a value of $2.6 billion.

The Atlantic provinces saw the largest declines of 2011—11.9% to $3.7 billion. New Brunswick fell farthest, down 14.8%. In Saint John, building permit values dropped 24.8%.

Among Canada's 33 census metropolitan areas, the biggest contributor was Toronto, where $14.2 billion in permits was issued in 2011, an increase of 9.6%. Montréal issued $7.9 billion in permits, a 19.7% increase. Saskatoon posted the sharpest gain, up 33.1% to $1.1 billion.

Housing starts on the rise

In 2011, 193,950 housing starts were registered, up 2.1% from 2010. There were 174,437 houses under construction at the end of 2011, a 9.3% increase from 2010, while 175,623 houses were completed, a 6.0% drop.

The majority of housing starts were in Ontario (67,821 units) and Quebec (48,387 units), up 12.2% and down 5.8% from 2010, respectively. Prince Edward Island posted the strongest increase of all the provinces, 24.3%, followed by Saskatchewan, up 19.0%. In New Brunswick, starts fell 15.8% from 2010, the largest decline in the provinces.

In 2011, 111,558 multiple-unit housing starts were posted, up 14.6% from 2010. Among the multiple-unit starts, the majority were apartment and other unit types (79,541 units), followed by row housing (19,447) and semi-detached (12,570). Single-detached housing starts were down 11.0% to 82,392.

Multiple units lead investment in new dwellings

Investment in new dwellings increased 3.8% in 2011 to $41.0 billion. Apartment building investment rose 32.2% from 2010; row housing advanced 8.8%; and double housing, 2.4%. Investment in single housing fell 6.6%.

The strongest gains in construction investment were in Nunavut (65.6%), Saskatchewan (49.7%) and Ontario (11.7%), with apartment housing the greatest contributor to growth. Investment fell the most in the Northwest Territories (33.7%), with large drops in double housing and apartments, and Alberta (10.3%), mostly owing to a decline in single housing.

Provincially, the highest overall residential investment was in Ontario ($14.4 billion), Quebec ($9.0 billion) and Alberta ($6.6 billion).

In 2011, $44.6 billion was invested in non-residential construction, up 3.8% from 2010. Newfoundland and Labrador (68.4%) and Prince Edward (56.1%) saw the sharpest growth. The largest drops were posted in the Northwest Territories (35.9%) and Nunavut (24.1%), followed by Alberta (9.5%) and Saskatchewan  (6.5%).

Non-residential investment was highest in Ontario ($18.3 billion), followed by Alberta ($8.5 billion), Quebec ($7.6 billion) and British Columbia ($5.1 billion).

Chart 6.1 Value of building permits
View data source for chart 6.1


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