In the last quarter of 2017, there was $2.42 billion on the books of non-residential construction investment across the province.

By comparison, in seasonally-adjusted current dollars, investment in that segment hasn’t been this low since the third quarter of 2013, when it was $2.38 billion.

It peaked at $3 billion in the third quarter of 2015.

The numbers released Tuesday also show that investment in non-residential construction in Calgary dropped by almost 13 per cent from the last quarter of 2016 to the end of 2017.

In the final quarter of 2016, spending on non-residential construction projects in Alberta totalled $2.65 billion. By the end of 2017, spending was down to $2.42 billion, a drop of 8.5 per cent, Statistics Canada says.

‘Not like it’s collapsing’
ATB Financial chief economist Todd Hirsch says the numbers are not a cause for alarm.

“It is a decline but from a record high,” he said. “So it is lower but it’s not like it’s collapsing. It’s not like it’s cut in half, and it is what we would expect to see post-recession.”

Hirsch says non-residential projects take so long to build, it can take several years for the state of the economy to be reflected in the data.

The sub-categories of industrial and commercial construction saw the most dramatic year-over-year dips in Alberta — down 10 per cent to $213 million for the former, and down 11.4 per cent to $1.4 billion for the latter.

Spending on institutional construction dropped 2.2 per cent, from $781 million at the end of 2016 to $764 million at the end of last year.

In Calgary, spending on non-residential projects dipped 12.9 per cent year over year, from $1.01 billion to $882 million.

Edmonton saw a 13.3 per cent drop off, from $947 million to $821 million.

“There’s a glut of commercial real estate. It’s going to be a long time before there’s new projects announced in either city, particularly Calgary … because there’s so much vacant office space,” he said.

Nationally, investment in non-residential building rose for the third consecutive quarter to total $13.7 billion at the end of 2017.

There were gains in all three sub-sectors — institutional, industrial and commercial — led by institutional building construction, which was up $117.2 million to $3.9 billion, according to Statistics Canada.


As published on CBC News