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Manufacturing sector builds on February slump

OTTAWA, Ont. -- Canadian manufacturers had a strong March, as previous supply disruptions caused by the rail strike...

OTTAWA, Ont. — Canadian manufacturers had a strong March, as previous supply disruptions caused by the rail strike and the refinery fire in Ontario were rectified.

Statistics Canada reported manufacturers in March shipped goods worth an estimated $50.1 billion, representing a 2.8% gain over the previous month.

For the first quarter, shipments were up 1% compared to the fourth quarter of 2006. Shipments advanced in 15 of 21 manufacturing sectors, representing about 78% of total output.

Both durable and non-durable goods saw shipments increase in March. The petroleum and coal products industry continued to heavily influence the direction of non-durable shipments, with a 2.2% increase in non-durable goods to $22.4 billion. Durable goods increased 3.3% on the back of strong automotive and aerospace production.

After a slight increase in February, the transportation equipment sector surged 7.5% in March, recovering from the sharp loss recorded in January. Shipments increased to $10.4 billion, slightly exceeding the recent high reached in December 2006.

In March, eight provinces posted higher shipments with much of the strength concentrated in Central Canada.

Manitoba’s manufacturers posted a very strong month as shipments jumped 11.5% to $1.4 billion. First quarter shipments jumped 14.5% in Manitoba compared to the same quarter in 2006, one of the strongest quarterly gains in the country.

Ontario’s manufacturers made up some ground lost in recent months as shipments bounced back 3.6% to $24.4 billion in March, the first increase since December.

Inventories continued to be drawn down following the end of the rail strike in February. Total inventories for manufacturers fell 0.2% to $62.7 billion in March on the heels of a similar decline in February. Inventories hovered at near record levels for several months near the end of 2006 before easing slightly in the New Year.

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