Manufacturing sales rose 1.4% to $57.1 billion in March. Higher sales at primary metal; aerospace product and parts; fabricated metal product; and the other transportation equipment industries were mostly responsible for the increase.
Overall, sales were up in 13 of 21 industries, representing 72% of the Canadian manufacturing sector.
The primary metal and aerospace product and parts industries post the largest gains
Primary metal sales rose 4.2% to $4.4 billion in March following a 4.4% increase in February. While the growth in sales in dollar terms was widespread, the iron and steel mills and ferro-alloy as well as the alumina and aluminum production and processing industries posted the largest sales gain in March.
In the aerospace industry, production rose 10.6% in March following a 4.0% gain in February. The depreciation of the Canadian dollar contributed to a rise in the value of sales and inventories. Most sales and inventories held in the industry are priced in US dollars, and both are key components in the calculation of aerospace production.
Sales were also up in the fabricated metal product (+4.6%), other transportation equipment (+37.4%) and wood product (+3.7%) industries.
These increases were partially offset by declines in the motor vehicle (-2.0%), machinery (-1.7%) and computer and electronic product (-3.4%) industries.
Sales up in seven provinces
Sales were up in seven provinces in March, with Quebec and British Columbia responsible for most of the total national gain.
In Quebec, sales rose 2.9% to $13.8 billion in March, mainly due to a 21.3% increase in the aerospace product and parts industry. Sales also rose in the primary metal; machinery; and fabricated metal product industries.
Sales in British Columbia increased 4.0% to $4.6 billion in March, following four consecutive monthly declines. The increase was largely attributable to higher sales in the wood product industry.
In Saskatchewan, sales rose 5.6% to $1.5 billion. Higher sales in the food industry (+27.7%) were responsible for the gain. Greater availability of rail cars in March allowed more food products to be processed and shipped, leading to higher sales compared with February. Excluding the food industry, sales in the province declined 1.4%.
Sales were down in Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island due to lower sales of durable goods.
Inventory levels rise
Inventory levels increased 0.7% to $79.3 billion in March. This was the sixth consecutive increase in inventories, with 6 of 21 industries posting higher levels. The gains were attributable to the transportation equipment (+3.5%), chemical (+5.9%) and plastic and rubber products (+5.3%) industries.
The inventory-to-sales ratio declined from 1.40 in February to 1.39 in March. The inventory-to-sales ratio measures the time, in months, that would be required to exhaust inventories if sales were to continue at their current pace.
Unfilled orders increase
Unfilled orders rose 1.5% in March to $88.6 billion, a second consecutive monthly increase. The advance reflected a gain in the aerospace product and parts industry, up 2.4% to $47.1 billion, representing more than half of total unfilled orders.
New orders fell 0.7% to $58.5 billion, following a 7.4% increase in February. The decline in March was mainly the result of lower new orders in the aerospace product and parts; machinery; and the motor vehicle industries.
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