Printer icon Print Page
Insights on Trending Topics

Non-Residential Building Permits Increase Again

Jan 10, 2018

The Conference Board of Canada’s Economist Robyn Gibbard offers the following perspectives/insights on today's Statistics Canada release of building permit data for November 2017:


“Non-residential building construction had declined significantly since the 2014 recession. However, low industrial vacancy rates and strong sales growth are currently supporting a recovery. Most of the pickup is occurring in industrial building construction, where activity is booming. Commercial real estate remains in a difficult spot, with very high vacancy rates discouraging new construction in much of the country.”
—Robyn Gibbard, Economist, The Conference Board of Canada.


  • Non-residential building permits issued in the year to November totaled $35.0 billion. Permits were up 13.7 per cent year-on-year, and already exceeded their 2016 total with a month to spare. The overall trend has been one of solid growth since the beginning of 2016, and the trend is now above its previous peak in 2013.
  • All three subcomponents (industrial, commercial, institutional) have been contributing to the overall upward trend. Most of the growth has come from the industrial sector, where very low vacancy rates are driving new construction.
  • The commercial sector has been trending upward since 2016, but only very slowly. This sector is facing headwinds to growth in the medium term, with record-high vacancy rates and with declines in commercial business construction in 5 of the last 8 quarters.
  • The headline numbers obscure significant regional differences. Building permits are trending up in the Atlantic provinces, Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia, but they are flat in Saskatchewan and trending down in Manitoba and Alberta.
  • Overall, despite the decline in permits issued in November, strong year-over-year growth points to a continued expansion in non-residential building investment, consistent with our latest Canadian Outlook, which forecasts that businesses will increase their real spending on buildings by 2.9 per cent this year.