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Manufacturing sales bounce back as motor vehicle and aerospace shipments recover

Published by Brad Fougere on May 15, 2015

Canadian manufacturing sales snapped back in March, after a difficult month plagued by lower aerospace production and temporary auto plant closures.

Overall, March saw manufacturing sales grew by 2.9 per cent ($1.4 billion), reaching $51.0 billion in total sales for the month. On the one hand, this was an excellent performance – representing the largest month-over-month increase in sales activity in nearly four years. On the other, however, it was also simply a recovery from a combination of one-time events and shocks that drove February sales levels to unusual depths.

Even with the strong recovery in March, output has been struggling in recent months. Weighed down by the impact of oil prices on the value of refined petroleum sales, this most recent month of new data marks just the second time in the past six months that manufacturing sales have increased over the previous month. For the first quarter of 2015, overall sales are down 0.2 per cent compared to the same period last year.

As suggested above, the strong performance in March was largely the result of a snap-back in motor vehicles and aerospace sales. In February, temporary closures for retooling auto plants drove sales of motor vehicles and parts down by more than 10 percent compared to January. With production resuming in March, sales of those goods were up 8.6 per cent.

On the aerospace side, the rebound was even more dramatic. Sales plunged more than 29 per cent in February, but rebounded in March with a 42.3 per cent increase, bringing overall aerospace shipments to their highest level in six months.

Petroleum refiners also played a role in March’s solid performance. Although benchmark oil prices were lower in March, refinery sales jumped by 1.9 per cent as output returned to more normal levels at Canada’s largest refinery in New Brunswick. An increase in oil prices in April should help drive refinery sales even higher when results from that month are released.

Aside from solid gains for food product manufacturers (3.0 per cent growth in March), sales were flat or negative for many of Canada’s other major manufacturing sub-sectors. Shipments of fabricated metals were down 3.6 per cent. Sales of wood products, plastics and rubber, machinery and furniture were all lower as well.

Looking across Canada, the gains in March were heavily concentrated in Quebec and Ontario – home to most of the aerospace and auto plant manufacturing that drove monthly gains. On a dollar-value basis, Quebec sales grew by more than $800 million – a 6.9 per cent increase over February. In Ontario, sales were up by $590 million (2.6 per cent).

On a percentage basis, however, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick enjoyed the largest increases in manufacturing sales in March. In both provinces, sales were up more than 10 per cent over February. In the case of Nova Scotia, the increase was the result of a spike in shipments of transportation equipment, while in New Brunswick, it was higher refinery output.

Manufacturing sales fell in most other provinces, including Alberta, where sales of machinery and fabricated metals continue to fall as capital spending in the oil sands decreases. Sales also dipped in PEI and BC, which have been Canada’s growth leaders in manufacturing activity so far in 2015.


Found in: StatsCan

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Alberta British Columbia
Manitoba New Brunswick
Newfoundland & Labrador Nova Scotia
Ontario Québec
Prince Edward Island Saskatchewan