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Canadian manufacturing sales increased 1.9 percent (+$877 million) in March to $47.5 billion, following a 1.8 percent decline in February, according to Statistics Canada. The transportation equipment industry (+6.3 percent) accounted for just over half of the gain. Sales also rose in the machinery and paper industries.
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Higher sales were reported in 15 of 21 industries, representing 80.0 percent of total manufacturing.
Constant dollar manufacturing sales rose 1.9 percent in March.
Despite the decline in February, manufacturing sales in the first quarter increased 4.0 percent compared with the last three months of 2010. Sales for the first quarter ($141.6 billion) were also the highest since the third quarter of 2008 ($154.9 billion), before the economic downturn began. Including the first quarter of 2011, sales have advanced for seven consecutive quarters.
In the aerospace product and parts industry, production rose 20.6 percent to $1.4 billion. Sales in the motor vehicle industry advanced 4.1 percent, as a result of increases reported by most auto assembly plants. Sales in the motor vehicle industry have risen in 8 of the past 12 months.
Sales were up 4.2 percent in the machinery industry to $2.7 billion. Since their most recent low of $2.1 billion in October 2009, sales have advanced in 14 of 17 months. This advance partly reflects rising sales in the agricultural, construction and mining machinery industry.
Sales also increased in the paper (+4.0 percent), food (+0.8 percent), furniture and related product (+5.7 percent) and computer and electronic product (+3.9 percent) industries.
In March, nine provinces posted higher sales compared with February, led by Quebec and Alberta.
In Quebec, sales advanced 2.0 percent to $11.6 billion. The increase was caused by higher production in the aerospace product and parts industry (+31.1 percent). An 11.9 percent decline in the chemical industry, stemming from lower sales in the pharmaceutical and medicine industry, partly offset the gain.
Sales increased 3.7 percent in Alberta to $5.7 billion in March. The increase largely reflected a 6.2 percent rise in the chemical industry and a price-driven 3.6 percent advance in petroleum and coal products. A 7.9 percent increase in the machinery industry, largely stemming from higher sales of agricultural, construction and mining machinery, also contributed to the gain.
Sales increases in Newfoundland and Labrador (+25.8 percent) and Nova Scotia (+10.4 percent) reflected gains in non-durable goods industries in both provinces.
Sales edged up 0.1 percent to $21.4 billion in Ontario, led by a 4.7 percent increase in the motor vehicle industry. The machinery, furniture, computer and electronic product and printing industries also contributed to the increase. However, declines of 10.1 percent in the petroleum and coal products industry and 21.8 percent in the miscellaneous manufacturing industry offset almost all of the gains.
Inventory levels were up 2.1 percent to $62.0 billion, the sixth consecutive monthly rise. Although 15 of 21 industries posted higher inventory levels, most of the increase stemmed from a 21.3 percent advance in the petroleum and coal products industry. The increase was related to higher volumes of raw materials and finished product inventories reported by some refineries, as well as an 8.2 percent advance in the price of petroleum and coal products as recorded by the Industrial Product Price Index.
Higher inventory levels were also reported by manufacturers in the fabricated metal (+3.2 percent), computer and electronic (+3.4 percent), machinery (+1.3 percent) and wood product (+2.1 percent) industries.
A 1.6 percent decline in inventories in the primary metal industry offset a small portion of the national increase.
The inventory-to-sales ratio remained unchanged at 1.30 in March compared with February. The ratio has declined gradually over the past year after falling sharply in 2009.
Unfilled orders increased 9.5 percent in March to $57.3 billion, the largest increase in both percentage and dollar terms since the current series began in January 1992. Unfilled orders are now at their highest level since June 2009.
The advance in unfilled orders reflected a 22.0 percent rise in the aerospace product and parts industry. In March, unfilled orders in the aerospace industry totalled $26.5 billion, up $4.8 billion from February.
Excluding the aerospace industry, unfilled orders in the manufacturing sector rose 0.7 percent to $30.8 billion. The primary metal (+8.4 percent), machinery (+1.3 percent) and fabricated metal product (+1.8 percent) industries contributed to the gain.
New orders increased 11.3 percent to $52.5 billion in March, largely reflecting gains in the aerospace industry.