The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

Canadian Building Permits Up 11.6% in March

Month-to-month increase due to higher construction intentions for non-residential buildings.

Canadian municipalities issued building permits worth C$6.9 billion (US$5.7 billion) in March, up 11.6 percent from February. This was the first increase in three months. The increase in March resulted from higher construction intentions for non-residential buildings in British Columbia and Alberta and for multi-family dwellings in Ontario and British Columbia.

The value of non-residential building permits rose 22.1 percent to C$2.4 billion (US$2 billion) in March, following two consecutive monthly declines. Increases were posted in eight provinces, led by British Columbia and Alberta. Quebec and Saskatchewan also registered noticeable advances in the non-residential sector in March. Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador were the two provinces to register declines in the sector.

In the residential sector, the value of permits rose 6.6 percent to C$4.4 billion (US$3.6 billion). Gains in Ontario and British Columbia offset decreases in five provinces, with Quebec and Alberta registering the largest declines.

Nonresidential sector

In March, construction intentions for commercial buildings increased 11.4 percent to C$1.4 billion (US$1.2 billion), after two straight monthly declines. The increase was the result of higher construction intentions for warehouses, hotels and restaurants, retail and wholesale outlets, as well as retail complexes. British Columbia, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador recorded increases, while Ontario registered the largest decline of the remaining seven provinces.

In the industrial component, construction intentions rose 5.5 percent to C$428 million (US$352.3 million), the second consecutive monthly advance. The increase was attributable to higher construction intentions for manufacturing plants and, to a lesser degree, utilities buildings. Advances were posted in seven provinces, led by British Columbia, followed by Quebec and Saskatchewan.

The value of building permits in the institutional component increased 73.9 percent to C$661 million (US$544.1 million) in March, partly offsetting the declines of the two previous months. Advances were posted in a variety of institutional buildings, including educational institutions, medical facilities as well as nursing and retirement homes. Gains were posted in seven provinces, led by Alberta, followed by British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Quebec.

Residential sector

In March, Canadian municipalities issued building permits for single-family dwellings worth C$2.3 billion (US$1.9 billion), down 3.4 percent from February. This was the second consecutive monthly decline. Gains in five provinces, led by Ontario and Quebec, were not sufficiently large to offset the declines in the remaining provinces, with Alberta registering the largest drop.

Construction intentions for multi-family dwellings rose 19.6 percent to C$2.1 billion (US$1.7 billion) in March, marking the second consecutive monthly gain. The increase was attributable to higher construction intentions in four provinces, led by Ontario and British Columbia. The largest declines were recorded in Quebec and Nova Scotia.

At the national level, municipalities approved the construction of 18,586 new dwellings in March, up 24.9 percent from February. The increase stemmed from a 43.7 percent advance in the number of multi-family dwellings to 13,126 units. In contrast, the number of single-family dwellings declined 5 percent to 5,460 units.

By geography

The total value of permits was up in six provinces in March, led by British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta. Every building construction component increased in British Columbia, with multi-family dwellings, commercial and institutional buildings accounting for most of the gain. In Ontario, the increase was attributable to higher construction intentions for residential structures, mostly multi-family dwellings. In Alberta, the gain was the result of increased intentions for institutional and commercial buildings, as well as multi-family dwellings.

In contrast, Quebec posted the largest decrease, mainly as a result of lower construction intentions for multi-family dwellings, which rose 67.1 percent in February. In Nova Scotia, the decline was attributable to lower construction intentions for residential buildings, which posted a large increase the previous month.

Construction intentions were rose in 19 of the 34 census metropolitan areas, led by Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary.

The gain in Vancouver occurred mostly as a result of higher construction intentions for multiple dwellings and commercial buildings. In Toronto, which posted the largest decline a month earlier, the increase originated from residential structures, mainly multi-family dwellings. In Calgary, higher construction intentions for multi-family dwellings and institutional buildings explained the advance.

The largest decline was in Montréal, largely as a result of lower construction intentions for multi-family dwellings. This was the second decrease in three months.

Edmonton and Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo posted the next largest declines. In Edmonton, the decrease came from the residential sector, following three consecutive monthly increases. In Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo, every component contributed to the drop, with residential structures accounting for much of the decline.

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