Analysis – April 2013

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Canadian municipalities issued building permits worth $7.0 billion dollars in April, up 10.5% from March. The advance in April was the fourth consecutive monthly increase. The recent upswing came after a downward trend in the total value of building permits that began in the fall of 2012.

The advance in April came largely from higher construction intentions for multi-family dwellings in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec.

Construction intentions for residential dwellings rose 21.0% to $4.4 billion. It was the second straight monthly increase and the highest level in 10 months. All provinces posted gains except Alberta and Nova Scotia. These two provinces had posted large increases in March.

In the non-residential sector, the value of permits fell 3.6% to $2.6 billion, following two consecutive monthly gains. Declines were recorded in five provinces, with Alberta and Ontario posting the largest decreases. New Brunswick registered the largest increase, followed by Quebec and British Columbia.

Residential sector: Significantly higher construction intentions for multi-family dwellings

Construction intentions for multi-family dwellings rose 51.9% to $2.1 billion, a second consecutive monthly advance. This gain was the result of higher construction intentions for apartments and apartments-condominium in eight provinces, led by Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. Alberta and Nova Scotia posted decreases.

The value of building permits for single-family dwellings increased 1.1% to $2.2 billion in April, the third increase in four months. Gains in British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario more than offset declines posted in the other seven provinces. Alberta had the largest declines, followed by Nova Scotia.

Canadian municipalities approved permits for the construction of 19,377 new dwellings, up 33.0% from March. This increase was attributable to multi-family dwellings, which rose 58.3% to 13,168 units. The number of single-family dwellings, however, fell 0.6% to 6,209 units.

Non-residential sector: Declines in the institutional and industrial components

Non-residential building permits were down in April, as an increase in construction intentions for commercial buildings was not enough to offset declines in the institutional and industrial components.

Construction intentions for institutional buildings fell 27.2% to $715 million, following a 119.2% increase the previous month. Despite this monthly decrease, the total value of institutional building permits continued the upward trend that began at the end of 2012, albeit at a slower pace.

The decline in April was mainly attributable to government buildings in Alberta, medical buildings in Ontario and educational buildings in Saskatchewan.

The value of permits for industrial buildings decreased 5.3% to $450 million, following two consecutive monthly gains. Decreases occcurred in six provinces, led by Ontario, where it was largely attributable to manufacturing plants. Other notable declines came in utilities and primary-sector buildings in Saskatchewan.

In the commercial component, the value of permits rose 15.8% to $1.4 billion, following a 19.3% decrease in March. Gains in four provinces, particularly Alberta, offset the declines in the remaining provinces. Office buildings in Alberta and Ontario accounted for most of the advance.

Higher construction intentions in most provinces

The total value of permits was up in six provinces in April, with British Columbia in the lead, followed by Ontario and Quebec.

British Columbia posted the largest advance, as a result of higher construction intentions for multi-family dwellings and, to a lesser extent, institutional buildings and single-family dwellings.

The gain in Ontario resulted primarily from higher construction intentions for multi-family dwellings, while in Quebec, multi-family dwellings and industrial buildings were behind the increase.

The largest declines occurred in Alberta and were due to lower construction intentions for institutional buildings and, to a lesser extent, residential buildings.

Higher construction intentions in most census metropolitan areas

Construction intentions were up in 27 of the 34 census metropolitan areas (CMAs), led by Calgary and Vancouver.

The gains in Calgary were driven by higher construction intentions for commercial buildings. The increase in Vancouver came mainly from multi-family dwellings.

London was a distant third, with an advance largely attributable to higher residential construction intentions. The increase in Montréal came primarily from multi-family dwellings.

Following a record high the previous month, Edmonton posted the largest decline in April. This decrease resulted from lower construction intentions for institutional buildings.

Saskatoon and Toronto were a distant second and third, with both CMAs posting declines in the non-residential sector and single-family dwellings. The increases in construction intentions for multi-family dwellings in Saskatoon and Toronto were not large enough to offset the decreases in the other components.

Note to readers

Unless otherwise stated, this release presents seasonally adjusted data, which facilitates comparisons by removing the effects of seasonal variations. For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonal adjustment and identifying economic trends.

The Building Permits Survey covers 2,400 municipalities representing 95% of the population. It provides an early indication of building activity.

The communities representing the other 5% of the population are very small, and their levels of building activity have little impact on the total for the entire population.

The value of planned construction activities shown in this release excludes engineering projects (for example, waterworks, sewers or culverts) and land.

For the purpose of this release, the census metropolitan area of Ottawa–Gatineau (Ontario/Quebec) is divided into two areas: Gatineau part and Ottawa part.


Data for the current reference month are subject to revision based on late responses. Data have been revised for the previous month.

The trend-cycle estimates have been added to the charts as a complement to the seasonally adjusted series. Both the seasonally adjusted and the trend-cycle estimates are subject to revision as additional observations become available. These revisions could be large and even lead to a reversal of movement, especially at the end of the series. The higher variability associated with the trend-cycle estimates is indicated with a dotted line on the chart.

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