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(Jonathan Hayward)
(Jonathan Hayward)

Canada's building plans surge 18% Add to ...

The value of Canadian building permits hit a 13-month high in October in another sign the Canadian economy is emerging from recession.

Building plans jumped 18 per cent to $6.1-billion, Statistics Canada said Monday. Economists polled by Bloomberg had expected a 1-per-cent increase in the month.

The increase comes amid growing evidence Canada is climbing out of recession. The economy eked out an expansion in the third quarter of this year, while last month it churned out 79,000 new jobs, two reports showed last week.

The release comes a day ahead of a Bank of Canada announcement on interest rates. The central bank is almost sure to keep its key lending rate unchanged at a record low of 0.25 per cent. Economists will closely watch its wording on whether rates will likely stay at that level until the middle of next year - even as the economy warms up.

The building permit gains were widespread. On the residential side, construction plans grew for the third straight month, as the value of single-home intentions hit its highest level since February, 2008. In the non-residential side, permits soared 42.4 per cent, with industrial construction rising for the third month in a row.

The residential side climbed 3.8 per cent, led by growth in Ontario and Quebec. Single-home plans increased for the eighth month in a row, with advances in every province except Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

That outweighed a decline in multiple dwelling intentions. Building plans for multi-family housing fell 8.2 per cent, reversing a September increase.

On the non-residential side, all three components - industrial, institutional and commercial - grew in October.

In the industrial component, which includes plans for plants, mines, water filtration facilities, subways and utilities, the value of building permits doubled amid higher construction intentions in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

The segment tends to be the most volatile, but "what's a surprise is that it's been going up three months in a row," said Statscan analyst Nicole Charron. "That really jumped out at me."

The data doesn't show whether any increases are due to federal stimulus spending, or rather to long-term plans that municipalities had in place.

The value of institutional building permits increased 50.9 per cent, reversing four months of drops. That gain was largely due to educational institution projects in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec and British Columbia, while Ontario tallied more gains for medical buildings. This segment includes construction plans for new schools or hospitals, as well as additions to buildings.

Commercial building permits rose 15.3 per cent amid more construction plans for office buildings and retail stores in Ontario and warehouses in Saskatchewan.

Among cities, the strongest gains were in Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton. The largest declines were in Kingston and the census metropolitan area of Québec.

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