Building Supply Wholesale Sales Remain Strong

Wholesale sales grew for the seventh consecutive month in November – up 0.7 per cent to an all-time high of $67.4 billion, says Statistics Canada. Five of seven subsectors reported stronger sales, led by the machinery, equipment, and supplies subsector and the building material and supplies subsector. Notably, the increase reflects higher domestic sales of Canadian goods, as both imports and exports of key commodities fell in November. The demand for wholesale goods largely held firm through November as sales grew for the seventh consecutive month. This occurred notwithstanding the fact that some restrictions on business activities started to be tightened in some provinces in November in response to the second wave of COVID-19. However, for the most part, significant restrictions did not come into effect until December. November sales were 4.4 per cent higher than the pre-pandemic level recorded in February 2020, with six of the seven subsectors' sales higher than pre-COVID-19 levels. While sales in the machinery, equipment, and supplies subsector have surpassed pre-COVID-19 levels by more than any other subsector, the building material and supplies subsector is right behind at $1.1 billion above pre-COVID-19 levels. Sales of building material and supplies rose 1.1 per cent to $10.2 billion, the sixth increase in the past seven months, reaching a record high in November. The increase reflects primarily higher sales in the lumber, millwork, hardware, and other building supplies industry, which makes up more than half of the subsector. It appears that this increase was also driven by stronger domestic sales as exports of lumber and other sawmill products fell approximately 10 per cent in November.