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Canadian permits for commercial projects like office buildings fell to the lowest dollar value since 2011 in October while single-family housing remained strong, likely reflecting the pandemic's social distancing regime, figures from the federal statistics office signaled showed Monday.
Commercial project permits dropped 41% to CAD1.2 billion on the month. While the volatile monthly change reflects a plunge following a record high in September amid a massive project in the province of Ontario, the category is also 42% below the value from a year ago.
The drop in commercial projects pulled down the broader non-residential category by 30% on the month and by 27% from a year ago, Statistics Canada reported. Industrial projects declined 20% on the month and institutional projects like hospitals by 10%.
The weakness comes with many companies struggling to pay rent as Covid-19 restrictions keep customers away, and many service companies and white collar firms undertaking significant adjustments to social distancing rules. Housing meanwhile carries on with a boom as those who have kept their jobs are seeking bigger houses in the suburbs, potentially adding to existing risks of highly indebted families that predates the pandemic.
Single-family home permits are up 24% from a year ago, even after posting a 2.2% monthly decline that followed five consecutive increases. "The value of residential permits continued to show strength," StatsCan's report said.
Overall building permits fell 15% in October to CAD8.2 billion, and are down 3.3% from a year ago. September's permit value was the second-highest on record.