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Canada's Economy Shrank 9% In March, Largest Decline On Record: StatCan

Working from home is expected to cause a "dramatic decline" in productivity, Canada's statistical agency says.
This undated stock photo shows an empty two-lane highway in rural Alberta, with the dark clouds of a storm on the horizon.
Design Pics / Steve Nagy via Getty Images
This undated stock photo shows an empty two-lane highway in rural Alberta, with the dark clouds of a storm on the horizon.

MONTREAL ― Canada’s economy shrank at the fastest pace on record in March, Statistics Canada said in a preliminary report Wednesday.

The agency released the numbers in a “nowcast” six weeks ahead of the regularly scheduled release of the GDP data for March.

“Not all sectors of the economy declined in March. Activity in the health sector, food distribution and online retailing and streaming have been growing,” StatCan said.

Watch: Who’s hiring in Canada amid the coronavirus outbreak? Story continues below.

All the same, Canada’s economic output shrank by 9 per cent, at an annualized rate, in March, the agency said. That’s the largest single-month contraction in records going back to 1961. Overall, the economy was 2.6 per cent smaller at the end of March than it was at the start of the year.

The agency noted the numbers are preliminary and will likely be adjusted in the official report next month. Some of the data used to calculate GDP growth is not yet available.

“Among the hardest hit by social distancing measures and government restrictions have been the travel- and tourism-related industries, such as personal transportation, restaurants and accommodation,” the nowcast said.

“Major declines have also occurred in personal services, retailing (other than food), entertainment and sporting events, and movie exhibition.”

StatCan also warned of another hit to the economy: Declining productivity due to a sudden shift to working from home.

“Working from home and distance learning have been growing trends across society, however, due to the suddenness and breadth of the shutdowns of government and education facilities, the volume of output in these sectors, based on actual hours worked, is calculated to decline dramatically.”

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