April 8, 2020 / 1:44 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Canada building permits flash March estimate signals 23.2% y/y decline

(Adds detail of Statscan flash estimate for March data)

By Kelsey Johnson

OTTAWA, April 8 (Reuters) - The value of Canadian building permits likely fell 23.2% year-over-year in March as officials took action to fight the coronavirus outbreak, Statistics Canada said in a preliminary flash estimate published on Wednesday.

The Canadian provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec had the strongest declines, the national statistics agency said, likely reflecting provincial measures put in place in mid-March to slow the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

In Ontario, the value of building permits issued fell by 50.5% compared with March 2019, the estimate showed.

The March preliminary flash estimates were calculated using open source building permit reports from 23 large municipalities as well as municipal building permit reports submitted to the agency by April 2, Statscan said.

Combined these municipalities accounted for about 29% of total building permits by value in 2019, Statscan said, adding the data is not seasonally adjusted.

Meanwhile, in a separate release, Statistics Canada said the value of Canadian building permits fell by 7.3% in February from January.

Analysts surveyed by Reuters had expected a decrease of 4.5% in the value of building permits in February. All figures are seasonally adjusted.

The residential sector saw lower intentions for multi-family components, while the industrial component led the decline in the non-residential sector. The value of building permits were down in five provinces, with British Columbia recording the largest decrease.

Reporting by Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa; Additional reporting by Dale Smith; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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