Canada’s economy shrank for 2nd month in a row in May

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Canada’s gross domestic product shrank by 0.3 per cent in May, the second consecutive monthly contraction as most industries slowed down.

Statistics Canada reported Friday that most industries shrank, especially construction, manufacturing and retail.

Even Canada’s red hot real estate sector shrank for the second month in a row. The real estate and rental and leasing sector was down 0.4 per cent in May after falling by 0.8 per cent in April. That’s the first two-month streak of declines since March and April of 2020.

“As housing sales and construction levels gradually return to more sustainable levels, this area of the economy could be a drag on growth in coming months,” TD Bank economist Sri Thanabalasingam said.

Agriculture and forestry, mining and oil and gas extraction, utilities and the public sector all expanded slightly.

All in all, the total value of all the goods and services produced by Canada’s economy was just shy of $1.98 trillion during the month. That’s still two per cent below the slightly more than $2 trillion that the economy was worth in February 2020.

The numbers for May come at the time when Canada’s economy was on the downslope of the third wave of COVID-19, and much of society was on some sort of lockdown or reduced capacity. But there are signs that a rebound has happened since.

Preliminary data for June suggests the economy grew by 0.7 per cent during the month. And July may have been even better — credit and debit card data suggests that consumers returned to spending on high-contact services including in-person dining, recreation activities and travel that had long been restricted to them, Thanabalasingam said.

June’s uptick means the economy will expand by about 0.6 per cent in the second quarter overall. That’s about a 2.5 per cent annual pace — much slower than the 6.5 per cent pace the U.S. economy clocked in the same period, but much better than the 8.3 per cent contraction seen in countries that use the euro.

Thanabalasingam said the data for May and June show just how up and down the economy may go from here on out.

“It may not be smooth sailing for the rest of the recovery,” he said. 

“The delta variant is wreaking havoc around the world, leading to a retightening of restrictions in some countries. Canada has so far avoided the worst of this virus, but cases are rising in some provinces. A fourth wave could lead to another stalling in the recovery, though with relatively high rates of vaccination a full reversal appears less likely.”



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