Wholesale sales rose 1.8% to $55.9 billion in May. Gains were recorded in six of seven subsectors, accounting for 88% of total wholesale sales, and were led by the motor vehicle and parts subsector.
In volume terms, wholesale sales increased 1.5%.
Higher sales in six subsectors
The motor vehicle and parts subsector recorded the largest gain in dollar terms in May, rising 3.6% to $10.8 billion. The motor vehicle industry (+3.7%) accounted for most of the advance, recording its highest level since January 2016.
Sales in the food, beverage and tobacco subsector rose 3.2% to $11.1 billion in May, the second increase in three months. Higher sales in the food industry (+3.7%) contributed the most to the gain.
The personal and household goods subsector increased 1.5% to $8.2 billion on the strength of the pharmaceuticals and pharmacy supplies industry (+3.6%).
Following four consecutive declines, the building material and supplies subsector rose 1.4% to $7.4 billion. Gains in all industries contributed to the increase in May.
Sales in the miscellaneous subsector decreased 1.3% to $7.0 billion, following a 4.9% gain in April. Two of the five industries in the subsector recorded lower sales, led by the other miscellaneous industry (-5.9%).
Higher sales in nine provinces
In May, wholesale sales were up in nine provinces, together representing 89% of total wholesale sales in Canada, with Quebec and Ontario accounting for most of the gain.
In Quebec, sales increased 4.5% to $10.4 billion, more than offsetting the 1.9% decline in April. Gains were recorded in all subsectors, led by the food, beverage and tobacco subsector and the motor vehicle and parts subsector.
Following three consecutive monthly declines, sales were up 1.5% to $28.6 billion in Ontario. Higher sales in the motor vehicle and parts subsector and the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector accounted for most of the gain.
Sales increased 4.8% to $1.5 billion in Manitoba on the strength of higher sales in the farm product subsector and the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector.
Both British Columbia and Saskatchewan recorded their second consecutive sales gain in May. In British Columbia, sales rose 1.0% to $5.5 billion, led by growth in the motor vehicle and parts subsector, which more than offset declines in several other subsectors. In Saskatchewan, sales were up 1.7% to $1.9 billion, led by the miscellaneous subsector.
Following four consecutive monthly declines, sales in Nova Scotia increased 2.6% to $783 million, led by the motor vehicle and parts subsector.
Higher sales were posted in New Brunswick (+3.6%), Newfoundland and Labrador (+2.5%) and Prince Edward Island (+13.9%), with the food, beverage and tobacco subsector leading the increases.
Alberta recorded the sole decline in May, with sales down 1.6% to $6.0 billion, the second consecutive drop. The decrease in May partly reflected the effect of the wildfire and evacuation in the Fort McMurray area. The machinery, equipment and supplies subsector was the largest contributor to the decline in this province.
Slight decline in inventories in May
Wholesale inventories edged down 0.1% to $72.0 billion in May, a fifth consecutive monthly decrease and the lowest level since July 2015. Declines in four subsectors, representing 72% of total inventories, offset gains in the other three subsectors.
In dollar terms, the largest decrease in inventories was recorded in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector, down 1.1%. This was the sixth decline in seven months.
Inventories in the building material and supplies subsector declined for a second consecutive month. In the miscellaneous subsector, they fell for a third consecutive month, while in the motor vehicle and parts subsector, they decreased for the fifth time in six months. For each of these subsectors, inventories dropped 0.5% in May.
The largest rise in inventories in dollar terms was recorded in the personal and household goods subsector, up 1.6%. The second largest gain was recorded in the food, beverage and tobacco subsector, up 1.4%.
The inventory-to-sales ratio declined from 1.31 in April to 1.29 in May. This ratio is a measure of the time in months required to exhaust inventories if sales were to remain at their current level.
Fort McMurray wildfire and evacuation
With collection of data for the May reference month, the Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey added three supplementary questions to assess the impact of the Fort McMurray wildfire that started in early May 2016.
For the May reference month, approximately 1,500 companies responded to the supplementary questions, of which about 14% indicated that they had been affected by the wildfire. Among the reporting companies that indicated being affected, about 50% were able to quantify the impact.
While the impact was widespread across subsectors, responses to the supplementary questions indicated that the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector had the largest share of companies reporting an impact in May.
The responses also indicated that wholesale establishments in most provinces were affected, led by those in Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia. Although the responses pointed toward a negative contribution, the overall impact of the wildfire and evacuation on wholesale sales was relatively small.