OTTAWA - Statistics Canada says manufacturing sales rose 0.6 per cent to $49.9 billion in December, the fifth increase in six months.

The agency says manufacturing now has rebounded close to the $50.2 billion recorded in October 2008, when the economic downturn began.

Monthly sales for seven of 21 manufacturing industries have reached or surpassed levels recorded in 2008.

Sales in December increased in 12 of 21 industries representing about two-thirds of manufacturing, with gains coming primarily in durable goods industries, where sales rose 2.1 per cent.

Sales of non-durable goods fell 0.9 per cent.

For 2011 as a whole, manufacturing sales amounted to $571 billion, up 7.8 per cent from 2010, with higher sales in the petroleum and coal products, primary metal, machinery and transportation equipment industries.

Sales by motor vehicle manufacturers rose 2.9 per cent in December to $4.3 billion, the highest monthly total since November 2007.

Sales in the motor vehicle parts industry rose 5.5 per cent to $1.9 billion.

The transportation equipment industry as a whole had the largest dollar gains of any industry, with a 3.7 per cent increase in sales to $8.5 billion. This was the seventh consecutive monthly increase.

Plastics and rubber products sales increased 7.5 per to $2.1 billion, their highest level since August 2007. The rise reflected higher sales volumes.

Greater sales volumes were entirely responsible for a 2.7 per cent increase in the primary metal industry to $4.2 billion, the third consecutive monthly gain.

The overall December sales increase was partly offset by a 5.6 per cent decline among petroleum and coal product manufacturers to $6.9 billion.

Manufacturing sales rose in four provinces in December, with most of the increase was located in Central Canada. Combined sales in Ontario and Quebec were up $741 million, while sales declined $445 million in the rest of Canada.

With the gains in December, Ontario, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan surpassed their sales levels recorded in October 2008.