OTTAWA (AFP) – Canada’s economy shrank at an annualised rate of 8.2 per cent in the first quarter as consumers stopped spending and business ground to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic, the government reported on Friday.
Analysts had forecast an even bigger hit, of 10 per cent. Compared to the final quarter of 2019, the decline was 2.1 per cent, Statistics Canada said, adding that the drop in gross domestic product (GDP) was the sharpest since the first quarter of 2009.
Household spending was down 2.3 per cent – the steepest quarterly drop ever recorded.
“The Canadian economy collapsed in March,” said Benoit Durocher, economist at the Desjardins Bank in Montreal.
The downturn will be exacerbated in the second quarter, he predicted, on the basis of Statistics Canada’s preliminary data which showed GDP fell by 11 per cent between March and April. That said, the figures for March were less gloomy than anticipated, pointed out Royce Mendes of CIBC.
That “means that the second quarter as a whole won’t look much worse than the roughly 40 per cent annualised drop-off in GDP we had been expecting”, he added.
The first quarter drop in GDP followed measures introduced in mid-March to contain the pandemic, such as the closure of schools and non-essential businesses, border closures and travel restrictions.