January manufacturing sales show Canadian factories were slowing even before COVID-19 hit

Statistics Canada says manufacturing sales fell 0.2 per cent to $56.1 billion in January.

The agency says it was the fifth consecutive monthly decline.

Economists had expected a drop of 0.5 per cent for January, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Statistics Canada says sales were down in nine of 21 industries, led by lower sales in the transportation equipment and petroleum and coal products industries.

Sales of transportation equipment fell 6.0 per cent to $9.9 billion in January due to longer temporary shutdowns at some assembly plants as well as the recent closure of the General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ont. Petroleum and coal product sales fell 5.2 per cent to $5.9 billion due to lower sales volumes and lower prices.

In volumes terms, manufacturing sales fell 0.4 per cent.

“With five consecutive months of shipment declines now on the books, this is a disappointing release which paints a picture of weak underlying momentum in the Canadian economy heading into the COVID-19 outbreak,” TD Bank economist Omar Abdelrahman said.

Scotiabank economist Derek Holt agrees with that assessment, saying in a note to clients Tuesday “what this overall set of figures continues to tell us is that the manufacturing sector was in rough shape well before global supply chains and demand got rattled by the COVID-19 shock.”


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