Shop floors, petroleum refineries, and fabricating centres in Alberta were a bit busier this January, starting off the New Year on the right foot.
Shipments of manufactured goods rose to $6.4 billion in the first month of the year, a slight uptick of 0.9 per cent over the previous month. But compared to January of 2011, manufacturing activity in the province was higher by 16.5 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.
Nationally, manufacturing sales moved in the opposite direction, slipping 0.9 per cent to $49.6 billion, the second decrease in seven months. The decrease partly reflected a drop in production in the aerospace product and parts industry, primary metals, machinery and other transportation equipment industries.
Alberta’s manufacturing activity is concentrated in those industries that provide either inputs into the energy sector (eg. steel pipe, specialized equipment, etc.), or outputs (refined petroleum and chemicals). As a result, overall manufacturing values in the province tend to move in tandem with oil and gas activity. The occasional shut-down of a refinery or upgrader due to maintenance can interrupt that trend.
Provincial manufacturing also includes food packaging and processing (especially meat products) and forestry products such as lumber and pulp and paper, both of which have fallen in recent quarters.
The level of manufacturing shipments remains a small amount below the record highs set in early 2008. Still, the trend over the past two years has been clearly towards an expansion in overall sales. That bodes well for Alberta’s economy going into 2012.