Building Permits (BPER)
Detailed information for March 2023
Results of this survey will enable Statistics Canada to estimate residential and non-residential construction activity at various geographical levels.
Data release - May 10, 2023
The monthly Building Permits Survey collects data on the value of permits issued by Canadian municipalities for both residential and non-residential buildings, and the number of residential dwellings authorized. The survey also measures the number of dwelling units demolished.
Building permit data are widely used as a leading indicator for the construction industry since the issuance of a building permit is one of the first steps in the construction process.
Statistics on building permits are essential inputs for the computation of residential building construction expenditures, the quarterly and annual estimates of net capital stock, and depreciation by component. They are also a major input in the computation of investment in non-residential building construction on a sub-annual basis.
In addition, the results of this survey are used by CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) as a reference frame for conducting a monthly survey of housing starts and completions in accordance with its mandate.
The statistics are used by a wide range of economists, construction industry analysts, housing market analysts and economic development officers across Canada.
The survey is administered as part of the Integrated Business Statistics Program (IBSP). The IBSP has been designed to integrate approximately 200 separate business surveys into a single master survey program. The IBSP aims at collecting industry and product detail at the provincial level while minimizing overlap between different survey questionnaires. The redesigned business survey questionnaires have a consistent look, structure and content.
The integrated approach makes reporting easier for firms operating in different industries because they can provide similar information for each branch operation. This way they avoid having to respond to questionnaires that differ for each industry in terms of format, wording and even concepts. The combined results produce more coherent and accurate statistics on the economy.
Reference period: Month
Collection period: First 20 days following the end of the reference month
- Construction materials
- Non-residential building construction
- Non-residential engineering construction
- Residential construction
Data sources and methodology
The Building Permits Survey targets all Canadian municipalities that issue permits. At present, approximately 2,400 Canadian municipalities, representing all provinces and territories and encompassing 95% of the Canadian population, are covered by the survey. In practice, all population centres are represented in the survey, as well as a high percentage of rural municipalities. All of these municipalities are surveyed.
The municipalities comprising the remaining 5% are not included in the survey, and the figures are not adjusted to represent them. They make up very small portions of the population, and their construction activities have little impact on the total.
Non-responding municipalities that issue permits are contacted on a regular basis to respond to the survey.
The Building Permits Survey questionnaire was designed to capture the basic information included in permits issued by municipalities: permit number, type of project, type of work, value of the work, total building area and the addresses of the builder, the owner and the construction site.
This survey is a census with a cross-sectional design.
Data are collected for all units of the target population, therefore, no sampling is done.
Responding to this survey is mandatory.
Data are collected directly from survey respondents.
The survey is conducted by electronic questionnaire or telephone interview.
An email invitation to complete the questionnaire is sent to respondents for whom Statistics Canada has an email address. For municipalities whose email address is not known, an introductory letter with a secure access code is mailed out inviting them to complete the electronic questionnaire. Computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI) follow-up is done for non-response and for completed questionnaires with failed edits. Reminders are sent out throughout the collection period to municipalities for which Statistics Canada has not received a response.
View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s) .
Most reporting and data entry errors are corrected through automated data capture and complex data review procedures. Strict quality control procedures are applied to ensure that collection, coding and data processing are as accurate as possible. Checks are also performed on totals and the magnitude of data. Reports that fail to meet the quality standards are subject to verification and are corrected as required.
Data are imputed for municipalities that fail to send in their reports for the current period. The data are calculated automatically, subject to certain constraints, by applying the month-to-month and year-to-year variations in similar values of responding municipalities and the historical pattern of the missing municipalities to the previously used values. At the end of the year, the imputed values are replaced with actual data received from late-reporting municipalities and final estimates are produced.
When partial survey data are received (for example, the value of a project is missing), the missing characteristics are imputed on the basis of the average values for similar projects provincially.
No adjustment is made for permit undervaluation or for failure to apply for a permit for construction work.
The building permits survey uses the Generalized Estimation System (G-EST) developed at Statistics Canada to produce its domain estimates. This application produces estimates for domains of a population based on a sample and auxiliary information. Estimates are computed at several levels of interest such as province and Census Metropolitan Areas (CMA), based on the most recent classification information for the statistical entity and the survey reference period.
The initial purpose of the Building Permits Survey is to collect information about construction intentions. The data and trends from the survey are periodically compared with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation data on housing starts, and Public and Private Investment Survey data for the non-residential sector. In addition, a number of municipalities publish their own figures for the value of building permits issued. Those figures are compared with the results of the Building Permits Survey. The comparisons are used to assess the quality and consistency of the data series.
Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential.
Revisions and seasonal adjustment
Monthly preliminary estimates are provided for the reference month and revised estimates based on late responses are provided for the previous month. The seasonally adjusted data also need to be revised, in part, to reflect revisions identified for the raw data. Thus, with the release of each month of new data, the seasonally adjusted values for the previous two months are also revised.
Components of the building permits for which seasonal variation is present are seasonally adjusted using the X-12 ARIMA method. Seasonally adjusted data for the total number of housing units and the aggregate value of building permits are obtained indirectly, i.e., by adding up their seasonally adjusted components. Specifically, the total number of dwelling units is obtained by summing the seasonally adjusted data for single-family and multi-family units. The total value of building permits is obtained by summing the following components: residential, industrial, commercial and institutional. In cases where the component series contains no apparent seasonality, unadjusted values are used in the place of seasonally adjusted values in these aggregations.
At the end of the year, the seasonally adjusted time series are revised to take into account the most recent seasonal fluctuations at the same time as a revision to the previous year of the unadjusted data. In general, revisions for the seasonally adjusted estimates extending back three years are made with the release of January building permits data.
For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally adjusted data - Frequently asked questions.
As a complement to the seasonally adjusted series, trend-cycle estimates are produced to indicate the long-term underlying movement of a series and may also be used as early indicators of the direction of the short-term trend (within the current year). Both the seasonally adjusted and trend-cycle estimates are subject to revision as new data points are added to the series. These revisions could be large and even lead to a reversal of movement, especially at the end of the trend series. The higher variability associated with the trend-cycle estimates is indicated with a dotted line for the most recent four months on the graphs.
Starting with the release of January 2016 data, the Monthly survey of building permits trend-cycle is estimated using a standard method employed by several monthly economic indicators at Statistics Canada. For more information on this method, see the StatCan Blog and Trend-cycle estimates - Frequently asked questions.
In the last years, an average of 98% of the municipalities covered by the survey filed their monthly reports for the Building Permits Survey. The average monthly revision rate over the last few years has been 0.5%.