Wholesale sales ticked higher in May after record plunge in April

OTTAWA — Wholesale sales in Canada ticked higher in May after posting a record plunge in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The government agency said wholesale sales rose 5.7 per cent to $52.6 billion in May following the 21.4 per cent drop in April.

Economists on average had expected an increase of 8.5 per cent for May, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

CIBC economist Katherine Judge said wholesaling wasn’t hit quite as hard as either retailing or manufacturing in March and April.

“As the economy continues to reopen and demand picks up, while at the same time more inventory becomes available, a further increase in wholesaling should be expected,” Judge wrote in a note to clients.

“That said, since it didn’t fall as hard, it will likely continue to recover at a slower pace than (other) industries.”

Statistics Canada said as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the railway shutdowns that came before it due to blockades, wholesale sales fell $15.3 billion from February through April.

It said that after the $2.8 billion increase in May, wholesale sales were still down 19.2 per cent compared with January.

The overall increase in May came as six of seven subsectors recorded higher sales.

Statistics Canada said that the building material and supplies and the motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts and accessories subsectors contributed the most to the gain, in dollar terms.

The building material and supplies wholesale subsector rose 16.1 per cent to $7.8 billion, while the motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts and accessories subsector gained 33.4 per cent to $4.2 billion in May.

Machinery equipment and supply wholesalers reported sales fell 4.7 per cent to $11.5 billion.

Overall wholesale sales volumes increased 5.2 per cent for the month.

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