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Building permits, May 2014

Released: 2014-07-07

Municipalities issued building permits worth $6.9 billion in May, up 13.8% from April. This followed a 2.2% rise in the previous month. The increase in May resulted primarily from higher construction intentions for commercial buildings in Ontario and Manitoba, as well as multi-family dwellings in British Columbia. The total value of permits has been on a slight upward trend since the beginning of 2014.

Gains were posted in every province in May, except Quebec and Nova Scotia. Ontario, British Columbia and Manitoba registered the largest increases.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Total value of permits - Description and data table
Total value of permits

Chart 1: Total value of permits - Description and data table

Construction intentions for residential dwellings rose 9.5% to $4.1 billion in May, the third consecutive monthly increase. Higher residential construction intentions were registered in eight provinces, led by British Columbia, followed by Ontario and the other western provinces. Nova Scotia posted the largest decline following two consecutive monthly gains.

In the non-residential sector, the value of permits rose 20.8% to $2.8 billion. Gains were posted in seven provinces, led by Ontario and Manitoba. Quebec, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia posted declines following large increases in all three provinces in April.

Residential sector: Higher construction intentions in both multi-family and single-family dwellings

Construction intentions for multi-family dwellings rose 16.1% to $1.9 billion in May, a third consecutive monthly advance. Higher construction intentions for apartments and apartments-condominium projects in British Columbia and, to a lesser extent, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan contributed to this gain. Nova Scotia, Quebec and Prince Edward Island posted declines.

The value of building permits for single-family dwellings rose 4.6% to $2.3 billion in May. This was the second consecutive monthly increase. Advances were posted in eight provinces, with Ontario recording the largest gain. British Columbia and Saskatchewan registered declines.

Canadian municipalities approved the construction of 17,415 new dwellings in May, up 11.8% from April. This increase was mostly attributable to multi-family dwellings, which rose 17.3% to 11,330 units. The number of single-family dwellings increased 2.8% to 6,085 units.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Residential and non-residential sectors - Description and data table
Residential and non-residential sectors

Chart 2: Residential and non-residential sectors - Description and data table

Non-residential sector: Significant rise in the commercial component

In May, the value of non-residential building permits registered its largest monthly gain since July 2013. This advance resulted from a strong increase in construction intentions for commercial buildings.

Construction intentions for commercial buildings rose 39.4% to $1.8 billion, the highest level so far in 2014. The advance came from higher construction intentions in a variety of commercial buildings, including warehouses, retail complexes, recreational facilities as well as hotels and restaurants. Gains were posted in nine provinces, with Ontario and Manitoba registering the largest advances.

In the industrial component, the value of permits rose 22.4% to $441 million. The increase was largely attributable to higher construction intentions for manufacturing plants in Quebec and Alberta, as well as primary industry buildings in British Columbia. Declines were registered in three provinces, with Ontario posting the largest decrease.

In the institutional component, the value of permits fell 16.6% to $555 million. This followed a 37.5% increase in April. The value of institutional building permits was down in five provinces. The decrease in May resulted from lower construction intentions for government buildings in Quebec and medical facilities in Saskatchewan. Alberta and British Columbia recorded large increases, as a result of higher construction intentions for educational institutions.

Provinces: Ontario posts the largest advance

The total value of permits was up in eight provinces in May, led by Ontario, followed by British Columbia and Manitoba.

Ontario posted substantial increases in commercial and single-family construction intentions.

The increase in British Columbia was mostly the result of higher construction intentions for multi-family dwellings and non-residential buildings. Gains in commercial buildings and multi-family dwellings led the increase in Manitoba.

In contrast, the decline in Quebec was the result of lower construction intentions for institutional buildings and multi-family dwellings.

Higher construction intentions in most census metropolitan areas

Construction intentions were up in 23 of Canada's 34 census metropolitan areas in May.

The largest increases were in Toronto, followed by Vancouver and Winnipeg. In Toronto, the advance was largely attributable to commercial buildings and multi-family dwellings. The gain in Vancouver was mainly the result of higher construction intentions for multi-family dwellings, whereas in Winnipeg, the increase came from commercial buildings.

In contrast, London, Hamilton and Québec posted the largest declines in the total value of building permits. Lower construction intentions in all components, except single-family dwellings, were the reason for the decrease in London. In Hamilton, the decline originated from institutional buildings and multi-family dwellings, while in Québec, commercial buildings were mainly responsible for the decrease.

  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 Seasonally adjusted data – Frequently asked questions.

The Building Permits Survey covers 2,400 municipalities representing 95% of the population. 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.

Building permits data are used as a leading indicator of activity in the construction industry.

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 for the previous month have been revised.

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.

The May 2014 issue of Building Permits (Catalogue number64-001-X) will soon be available.

Building permits data for June will be released on August 7.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Jérémie Bennett (613-951-0793), Investment, Science and Technology Division.

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