The value of building permits issued in a jurisdiction is generally considered to be a good indicator of whether or not an economy is growing or declining. Building permits are issued when there is new construction (either residential or commercial) and are based on the value of that construction.
On the surface, the latest report from Statistics Canada seems to show good news for New Brunswick in this area. From January to October 2004, the value of building permits issued in New Brunswick was up 18.2% compared to only 8% nationally (comparing to the same period last year). However, when we look at the value of building permits issued per capita (that is adjusted for the size of the population), the picture is not so rosy. From January to October 2004, across Canada the value of building permits issued was $1,517 per person. In New Brunswick, it was $945 per person – 38% lower than the national level. There is no surprise as to which provinces are leading the way for new building permits – Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Interestingly, on a per capita basis, PEI and Nova Scotia have been consistently outpacing New Brunswick for several years in the building permit data.
The stark reality here is simple. Less construction – less economic growth.
Statistics Canada also reports building permit data for Census Metropolitan Areas (Moncton is not one now but will be in 2006). From January to October 2004, the value of building permits issued in Saint John was down 4% – one of the worst performances among Canada’s urban areas. Wouldn’t it be nice if SJ got a break once in a while.