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Manufacturing Sales Analysis – November 2015

Manufacturing sales were up in November, breaking a streak of three consecutive months of decline and recovering most of October’s steep losses. Those losses were the result of two specific factors: a scheduled maintenance shutdown at the Irving oil refinery in Saint John, and a sharp drop in aerospace deliveries from Quebec. The refinery shutdown continued to impact New Brunswick’s manufacturing sales numbers, but a recovery in aerospace shipments, combined with another strong month for auto producers, helped propel overall manufacturing sales forward in November. All told, monthly sales rose 1.0 per cent in November, to reach $50.8 billion.

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In spite of November’s better sales numbers and the robust figures coming from the auto sector, the overall manufacturing picture for Canada in 2015 is down. Through 11 months, total sales are 1.9 per cent lower than they were through the same period in 2014. In November alone, year-over-year sales are 1.2 per cent below the previous year’s levels.

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While much of this decline can be attributed to the petroleum refining sector – where sales are down nearly 30 per cent compared to the previous year – oil prices do not tell the whole story. Commodity prices and weaker demand have impacted producers of metal products, along with those of chemicals and machinery throughout 2015. Not including petroleum refining, Canada’s total manufacturing sales numbers for 2015 remain in positive territory, with growth of 2.3 per cent compared to the January-to-November period in 2014. However, growth rates are less than half what they were a year ago.

non petro mfg sales chart image

As noted above, the increase in sales in November was primarily the result of a recovery in aerospace deliveries and continued strong growth in auto production. Motor vehicles and parts sales were up 3.1 per cent compared to October and are nearly 15 per cent higher than at the same point in 2014. For their part, aerospace sales were 11.5 per cent higher than a month earlier, but that increase merely returns sales back to September’s levels. Producers of machinery, fabricated metals and food products also enjoyed higher sales in November, while deliveries were down in petroleum refining, primary metals and chemicals.

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Given the concentration of auto production in Ontario and aerospace production in Quebec and Manitoba, those three provinces were unsurprisingly among Canada’s growth leaders in November. Newfoundland and Labrador posted the strongest growth overall, with monthly sales 8.4 per cent higher than in October. In Ontario and Quebec, gains were 1.5 per cent and 1.2 per cent, respectively.

mfg sales province chart image

Manitoba stands out from those provinces, however, because it was the only one where the increase in manufacturing activity was not simply offsetting losses in October. Manitoba sales were up 4.9 per cent in November to reach an all-time monthly record of just under $1.5 billion.

At the other end of the spectrum, manufacturing sales in Alberta and Saskatchewan continued their downward trends in November, while sales were also lower in BC, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

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