By any measure, from the perspective of Canada’s construction industry, last week’s data for building permits was impressive and indicates that volume of new work coming in has picked up.
With total seasonally adjusted building approval values ($7.031 billion) at their highest level in at least three years, overall numbers are impressive, but the most encouraging aspects of the latest figures revolve around two other salient facts.
For starters, both residential and non-residential building are showing good numbers, implying more of an industry-wide upturn as opposed to one strong sector compensating for a weaker one.
More important, however, is the sustained nature of positive data over several months. At $33.01 billion, the overall value of building approved in the first five months of this year (seasonally adjusted) is up by 10.5 per cent compared with the same period last year and 9.4 per cent compared with the first five months of 2010. This implies that the recovery in new building work is no mistake or statistical anomaly; it is real.
In the residential sector, where a pick-up in activity took hold last December and strong demand in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta led to an 8.5 per cent jump in the value of dwelling units approved in May, the industry appears to be going from strength to strength.
At $24.5 billion, the seasonally adjusted value of new dwelling construction permits issued during the six months to May was up 10.6 per cent when compared to the six months to November last year ($22.151 billion) and 13.25 per cent on the six months to May last year ($21.636 billion).
In contrast, the recovery in non-residential building did not take hold until February. While the volatile nature of data in this sector makes underlying trends difficult to ascertain, three consecutive months of strong readings would seem to indicate an uptick in the pace at which new work is coming in in this sector as well as in the residential sector.
Granted, with forecasters generally pessimistic about near-term prospects for the Canadian economy, it may not all be smooth sailing ahead, and whether or not the apparent uptick in building and construction implied by the permit figures can be sustained remains to be seen.
For now, howvere, new work is coming in faster than before. That, at least, is good news.