That was weaker than the drop of 4.3 per cent expected by economists, according to estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters.
The federal agency says lower construction intentions for non-residential buildings in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario were responsible for much of the national decline.
Building permits for non-residential construction totalled $2.0 billion in January, down 22.8 per cent from the previous month.
In the residential sector, the value of permits for multi-family dwellings fell 21.0 per cent to $1.5 billion in January — the fourth consecutive monthly decline.
Residential construction plans fell in eight provinces in January, with Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario registering the largest declines.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly stated the value of non-residential construction permits issued.