Building Materials Lead Wholesale Sales Again

Sales of wholesale products rose four per cent in January to $69.2 billion, the eighth increase in the past nine months, says Statistics Canada. This jump reflects growth of more than 10 per cent in the machinery; equipment and supplies; and the building material and supplies subsectors. The last time the wholesale trade sector recorded growth that strong, other than the rebound following the COVID-19-induced decline in April 2020, was in December 2014. Wholesale sales volumes grew 3.7 per cent in January. With in-person services and retail largely shut down due to public health orders and government COVID-19 income support more than offsetting income losses (in aggregate), Canadians appear to have shifted their spending patterns in ways that continue to benefit the wholesale sector. In particular, demand for computer equipment, office materials, and lumber for renovations and housing starts remained much stronger than usual in January. Sales in the machinery, equipment, and supplies subsector grew 10.8 per cent to $15.3 billion in January, the third increase in the past four months. The growth reflects a 27.9 per cent increase in sales of computer and communications equipment and supplies in January. Demand for personal electronics and equipment for those working from home remained high beyond the usual holiday rush because supply chain disruptions in the subsector meant some consumers had to wait to make planned purchases. Building material and supplies merchants reported a 12.1 per cent increase in sales to $11.5 billion in January, the eighth increase in the past nine months. The gain is largely due to a 17.3 per cent increase in sales of lumber, millwork, hardware, and other building supplies. In particular, investment in residential construction rose 3.9 per cent in January, which drove the price of wood products up 10.8 per cent.