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OTTAWA, March 2 — Canada’s pandemic-hit economy contracted 5.4 per cent in 2020, its worst plunge on record, despite a strong rebound in the final three months of the year, the national statistical agency said today.
In the fourth quarter of last year, the economy beat expectations by growing 9.6 per cent, amid higher government spending to help Canadians weather coronavirus restrictions as well as increased investments in business equipment and housing.
In 2019 GDP grew by 1.9 per cent.
From October to December 2020, new home construction and renovations as well as real estate sales jumped, while residential mortgage debt “expanded significantly,” said Statistics Canada.
Businesses bought more machinery and equipment, but their investments in non-residential buildings fell in the fourth quarter, amid weak demand for office buildings and shopping malls.
Many Canadians started working from home at the onset of the pandemic and public health officials ordered most retailers to close temporarily to slow the spread of Covid-19. As a result, online shopping suddenly became more common.
Household spending, however, was down slightly. Canadians in these times of economic uncertainty, for example, opted to buy used cars and trucks instead of new vehicles.
A decline in purchases of clothing and footwear was partly offset by increased buys of games, toys and hobbies, as well as equipment for sport, camping and open-air recreation.
“These movements reflected shifts in spending patterns in the wake of the pandemic,” said Statistics Canada, noting that 2020 saw the largest increase on record of disposable income.
As Canadians spent more time at home and less time travelling, they spent more on food and cannabis — which was legalised for recreational use in 2018 — and less on hotel accommodations, personal grooming and restaurant meals.
Growth in exports in the fourth quarter slowed, owing to reduced global demand and slowdowns in the economies of major trading partners such as the United States. For 2020, volumes were down 9.8 per cent compared to the previous year.
Following record fluctuations in the previous two quarters, imports rose slightly. But overall volumes for the year were down 11.3 per cent. — AFP