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March manufacturing sales see largest advance since September

Ottawa, ON -- Manufacturing sales increased 1.9% in March 2012 to $49.7 billion, the largest advance since September 2011, according to the latest Monthly Survey of Manufacturing from Statistics Canada. The gain was led by the...


Ottawa, ON — Manufacturing sales increased 1.9% in March 2012 to $49.7 billion, the largest advance since September 2011, according to the latest Monthly Survey of Manufacturing from Statistics Canada. The gain was led by the petroleum and coal products industry.

Sales rose in 13 of 21 industries, representing just over three-quarters of the manufacturing sector. Sales of durable goods increased 1.4%, while non-durable goods sales rose 2.4%.

Constant dollar sales advanced 1.9% in March, indicating an increase in the volume of manufactured goods sold. The increase was the largest since July 2011.

Sales gains led by the petroleum and coal products industry

Sales of petroleum and coal products increased 4.5% to $7.5 billion, the highest level since July 2008. The increase was largely the result of higher sales volumes at many oil refineries.

In the chemical industry, sales rose 3.2% to $3.9 billion. Most chemical manufacturers reported higher sales, largely reflecting greater volumes of products sold.

Production in the aerospace product and parts industry increased 9.9% to $1.4 billion.

Following an 8.6% decline in February, sales rose 2.3% in the motor vehicle assembly industry.

Although eight industries posted lower sales in March, most declines were relatively small. Sales decreased 1.2% in the primary metals industry and 1.6% in the plastics and rubber products industry.

Gains in seven provinces

Sales increased in seven provinces, representing more than 90% of Canadian manufacturing. Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec reported the largest gains.

In Ontario, growth was widespread as 15 of 21 industries posted higher sales. Sales advanced 1.9% to $22.4 billion, reflecting increases in the petroleum and coal products, motor vehicle assembly, chemical, and computer and electronic product industries. This was the first gain in sales in Ontario following two months of declines.

Sales in New Brunswick advanced 21.3% to $1.9 billion, reflecting increases in the non-durable goods industries. The level in March was the second-highest on record, $9 million below sales in September 2011.

In Quebec, manufacturers posted a 1.2% gain to $11.8 billion, with sales increasing in 9 of 21 industries. The increase was led by a 34.5% rise in aerospace product and parts manufacturing. This was the third advance in four months for this industry.

Inventory levels fall

Inventory levels fell 1.2% in March, the largest decline since September 2009. Inventories decreased in three of the last four months.

Petroleum and coal products manufacturers reported the largest drop in inventories, down 10.9% to $4.3 billion. Lower finished products inventories accounted for two-thirds of the decline, while one-third was attributable to decreases in raw material inventories.

Machinery manufacturers reduced inventories 2.3% to $6.7 billion, mainly as a result of lower raw materials inventories.

The inventory-to-sales ratio fell to 1.30 in March from 1.34 in February. The inventory-to-sales ratio is a measure of the time, in months, that would be required to exhaust inventories if sales were to remain at their current level.

Unfilled orders increase

In March, unfilled orders rose 2.0% to $62.6 billion, the second consecutive monthly increase. Unfilled orders were at their highest level since March 2009.

The advance reflected a 2.5% rise in the aerospace product and parts industry to $30.5 billion, the highest level in nearly three years. Excluding the aerospace industry, unfilled orders rose 1.5%.

The machinery industry reported a 3.5% gain to $8.3 billion, reflecting increased orders for construction machinery.

New orders were up 2.0% in March, the second consecutive monthly increase. The advance was the result of increases in the transportation equipment, petroleum and coal products, and computer and electronic product industries.