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Non-Residential Building Permits Increase Again

Dec 07, 2017

The Conference Board of Canada’s National Forecast Economist Robyn Gibbard offers the following insights on today’s release of building permit data for October:


“Non-residential building construction has dropped off since the 2014 recession, but modest growth has reappeared in the second half of 2017. As businesses deal with very low industrial vacancy rates and strong sales growth, they are beginning to invest in buildings again. Both commercial and industrial building permits contributed to the growth this month, indicating that recent investment gains are being sustained. However, as we have seen for some time, there are significant regional differences in building permits, with double-digit growth rates in Ontario and Quebec but declines in the Prairie provinces.”
—Robyn Gibbard, Economist, National Forecast, The Conference Board of Canada.


  • In the 12 months to October, non-residential building permits issued totaled $34.7 billion. That is an increase of 12.6 per cent from their value in the 12 months to October 2016. With recent gains, non-residential building permits are now at their highest level since July 2014 on a seasonally-adjusted basis.
  • Both industrial and commercial building permits contributed to the increase. Compared to the same point in 2016, the rolling 12-month sum of building permits has increased by 17.6 per cent for industrial construction and by 1.7 per cent for commercial construction.
  • Though small compared to the industrial results, the growth in commercial building permits is particularly promising. The commercial sector is facing record-high vacancy rates and commercial business construction has declined in 9 of the last 11 quarters. A significant boost in commercial building permits, coupled with growth in business construction in the third quarter data, bode well for a recovery in this sector.
  • The headline numbers obscure significant regional differences. Compared to the same point last year, the 12-month rolling sum of building permits is up by 40.6 per cent in the Atlantic Provinces, 26.4 per cent in Ontario, 19.2 per cent in Quebec, and 11.4 per cent in British Columbia. But they were down by 7.6 per cent in Saskatchewan, 11.7 per cent in Alberta, and 16.9 per cent in Manitoba.