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Canada's State of Trade: Trade and Investment Update – 2009
III. Canadian Economic Performance
Gross domestic product
n line with the deteriorating global economic situation, the pace of real economic activity in Canada fell sharply in 2008. Growth in real GDP fell from slightly over 2.7 percent in 2007 to just under 0.5 percent last year.
The year began with a contraction in the first quarter of 2008, after 18 consecutive quarters of growth (Figure 3-1). A slight rebound occurred over the middle part of the year before contracting again in the final quarter.
Canadian Real GDP Growth, 2004-2008
Source: Statistics Canada
Turning to the expenditure-based categories of GDP (Figure 3-2), growth in real consumer personal expenditures on consumer goods and services decelerated to slightly less than 3.0 percent last year, down from 4.5 percent in 2007—the slowest rate of expansion since 2001.
Growth rates for consumer spending on goods and consumer spending on services were nearly identical last year, at 3.0 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively. Spending on durable goods such as motor vehicles and household items contributed to the slower growth in 2008. Nevertheless, purchases of durable goods still expanded by 5.2 percent in 2008 after having grown by more than 7 percent over the previous two years. Even slower growth in semi-durables and non-durables was registered, at 4.0 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively. Overall, the slower growth in spending over 2008 was widespread, and this category of GDP contributed only 1.6 percent to real GDP growth, down from 2.5 percent in 2007. Nonetheless, personal expenditures on consumer goods and services was the largest contributor to growth last year.
Real GDP, Expenditure-based, 2004-2008 (Billions of Chained 2002 Dollars)
Source: Statistics Canada
Real business investment in plant and equipment grew by 1.7 percent in 2008. Growth in business investment in machinery and equipment was less robust in 2008, slowing to 2.0 percent, down from 7.1 percent a year earlier. Investment in nonresidential structures was up by 1.1 percent for the year, as investment in engineering structures expanded by 1.8 percent whereas investment in other non-residential buildings fell by 0.6 percent. Construction of engineering structures tends to be related to large projects that are difficult to scale back or halt during uncertain times. Once projects are launched, businesses tend to complete a given phase rather than lose their initial investment.
Investment in residential construction, which includes new housing construction, ownership, transfer costs and renovation activity, fell 2.9 percent in 2008, the first decline since 1998. Resale activity, as reflected in ownership transfer costs, posted its largest decline (17 percent) since 1990. In contrast, renovation activity, which has been expanding since 1999, was up 3.2 percent.
Inventories for both non-farm and farm businesses accumulated in 2008. For non-farm businesses, the buildup in stocks was less than half that posted in 2007, while farm businesses added $3.6 billion to inventories following a draw down the previous year.
Overall, real business investment removed 0.2 percentage points from economic growth in 2008, after having contributed 0.8 percentage points to growth in 2007.
In concert with falling foreign demand for Canadian-produced products, the negative contribution of net exports to real GDP growth widened to 1.8 percentage points last year from 1.5 percentage points a year earlier. This was due to a combination of falling real exports and rising real imports.
Export volumes of Canadian goods and services dropped 4.7 percent last year, with goods exports falling 5.0 percent and services exports declining 2.7 percent. Declines in auto exports (down 23.0 percent in real terms) and forestry products (down 14.2 percent) accounted for the bulk of the declines on the goods side, while all three major services categories (travel, transportation and commercial services) registered smaller receipts in 2008.
At the same time, Canadian demand for foreign-produced goods and services edged up 0.8 percent in real terms, led by a 1.0 percent increase in goods imports, while imports of foreign services fell 0.3 percent. The advances in goods imports were led by energy products (up 10.1 percent) and machinery and equipment (up 3.7 percent). An advance of 3.7 percent in real travel services imports was completely offset by a 2.6 percent decline in commercial services together with a 1.1 percent decline in transportation services.
Turning to GDP by industrial activity, weakness in the economy was evident throughout much of the year, becoming more pronounced in the last quarter, especially in November and December.
The production of goods fell 2.8 percent in 2008, the first decline since 2001. With the exception of construction, the output of all goods-producing sectors contracted in 2008. In contrast, the services sector grew 2.1 percent, with all sectors advancing.
Construction was the strong point for the goods-producing industries in 2008, rising by 2.3 percent. The growth in this sector was led by engineering and repair work, which advanced 4.1 percent over the year, while both residential and non-residential construction grew at slower paces—0.6 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively. A downturn in the building of new single dwellings and a reduction in the construction of industrial buildings were the primary factors behind this weakness.
Manufacturing, the largest of the goods producing industries, fell 5.1 percent in 2008, making this the third consecutive year of decline for this sector. Losses were widespread, led by clothing (down 22.1 percent), wood products (down 17.5 percent), leather (down 14.6 percent), and transportation equipment (down 12.7 percent). With the exception of aerospace products and parts, most transportation equipment sub-sectors also declined last year; however, the bulk of the declines were felt in motor vehicles, particularly motor vehicle manufacturing and motor vehicle parts. Together, these last two sub-sectors accounted for about half of manufacturing’s decline. Of the 21 sectors that comprise manufacturing, only four managed to register an increase in output in 2008: food manufacturing (up 1.6 percent), machinery manufacturing (up 0.3 percent), computer and electronic products manufacturing (up 0.1 percent) and miscellaneous manufacturing (up 3.7 percent).
Forestry and logging was also affected by reduced foreign demand, falling 16.4 percent in 2008, the fourth consecutive annual decline.
Energy products faced sharp fluctuations in their prices on international markets in 2008. In January, the average price of a barrel of crude oil8 was $94 in Canadian dollar terms; it continued to rise until it peaked at $136 in June before closing the year at an average $52 for December. Natural gas prices followed the same general pattern. Output in the sector fell 3.3 percent in 2008.
All service-producing industries expanded in 2008— led by miscellaneous services, retail trade, health care, public administration, education, and finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE), which all expanded between 2.7 percent and 3.1 percent. Within the FIRE sector, finance and insurance advanced 3.1 percent, its slowest rate of growth since 2003. Credit intermediation and insurance were part of this advance, while stock brokerage and related activities were essentially flat after recording an average annual growth of 8.8 percent between 1999 and 2007.
Output in retail trade grew by 3.1 percent in 2008, roughly half the rate registered in each of the previous two years. However, all major sub-sectors advanced.
Growth in the wholesale trade sector was essentially flat, a weakness not seen since the decline recorded in 1991. Wholesalers, which are also involved in export and import activities, were affected by a lower volume of external trade.
After nine years of essentially uninterrupted growth, the home resale market pulled back as the number of residential units sold fell some 17.1 percent, contributing to a decline in the real estate and brokers industries.
GDP growth by province
Although Canada’s national GDP grew slightly in 2008, the deteriorating global economic situation affected some provinces earlier than others. Five provinces—Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan— and two territories—Nunavut and the Yukon—posted positive growth for the year while the remaining five provinces and one territory experienced a contraction in economic activity in 2008. Many provinces were negatively impacted by the downturn in the United States as well as the ongoing slump in the U.S. housing market. The volume of exports fell 4.7 percent reflecting these developments, with only Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon experiencing growth in real exports in 2008.
The Newfoundland and Labrador economy contracted by 0.1 percent in 2008, following a 9.1 percent expansion in real GDP in 2007 (Figure 3-3). Growth in the province was dampened by decreases in the production of oil and gas, as output at the White Rose field slipped. Personal expenditures grew at a strong pace, propelled by the strongest gain in employment since 2003 and the first increase in population since 1992. Spending on durable goods such as cars and trucks increased by 13.0 percent for the second consecutive year. Business investment in residential structures was up 7.3 percent, however business investment in non-residential structures fell for the third year in a row. Following two years of strong growth, real exports slid 0.2 percent while real imports accelerated, advancing 3.7 percent.
Real GDP Growth by Province, 2008
Source: Statistics Canada
The economy of Prince Edward Island grew by 0.9 percent in 2008, spurred on by strong consumer spending and accelerating government spending. Crop production was down for the second year as farmers reduced crop acreage and potato production suffered from wet harvesting conditions. Real exports declined by 3.0 percent, reflecting the downturn in crop production as well as for reductions in livestock production and manufacturing. For manufacturing, food processing remained at 2007 levels and transportation equipment manufacturing increased, but a sharp declines in chemical manufacturing curtail growth.
Increased spending also provided a boost to the Nova Scotian economy, as consumer expenditures advance 3.1 percent in 2008, the strongest gain since 2002. Government spending accelerated in 2008, rising by 3.9 percent compared to 2.3 percent in 2007. Business investment in non-residential construction rebounded after a sharp decline in 2007. However, business expenditures on machinery and equipment fell by 20 percent and investment in residential buildings declines as housing starts fell. Real exports slowed, but remained positive, growing by 0.8 percent compared to 1.7 percent a year earlier. Similarly, imports grew more slowly in 2008, slipping to 1.3 percent for the year from 2.0 percent in 2007. Overall, real GDP in Nova Scotia advanced 2.0 percent in 2008, up from a 1.7 percent gain in 2007.
Economic activity in New Brunswick was virtually unchanged in 2008 from 2007, as that economy contracted by the slimmest of margins—two one-hundredths of a percentage point. Growth in consumer spending slowed to 3.4 percent from 4.1 percent in 2007. Real exports declined 2.8 percent, hampered by declines in forestry and manufacturing. In forestry, output continued to slow mirroring the drop in the U.S. housing market. Output in the industry slipped 27 percent in 2008, following a 9 percent decline in 2007. The slump has spread to forestry-related manufacturing. Wood product manufacturing was down 23 percent following a decline in 2007 and paper manufacturing also recorded a large downturn. Food processing also fell, down 5.9 percent, after three years of growth. The decline reflected a downturn in crop production as wet summer conditions led to a diminished potato crop. Real imports advanced by 1.0 percent, after registering a 4.4 percent rate of growth in 2007.
The Quebec economy grew 1.0 percent in 2008 as investment in non-residential structures continued to provide a boost to that economy for the third consecutive year. However, investment in residential construction registered a small decline as housing starts slipped. Both consumer and government spending slowed, but still grew faster than the provincial economy overall. Growth in consumer spending decelerated to 3.1 percent from 4.3 percent in 2007 while it slowed to 2.7 percent from 3.2 percent for government spending. Manufacturing output dropped 2.6 percent in 2008, after smaller declines over the previous two years. Clothing and textile manufacturing continued their downward trend of the past several years and wood-related manufacturing also fell, reflecting the broad weakness in the sector. Real exports were down, falling 2.5 percent in 2008, while growth in total imports slowed to 1.4 percent from 4.6 percent in 2007.
Economic activity in Ontario contracted 0.4 percent in 2008, down sharply from the 2.3 percent gain in the previous year. The slump in manufacturing deepened after two years of decline and was a key contributor to the decline. The downturn in manufacturing was widespread, with 16 of 21 sub-groups registering declines. The U.S. economic slowdown continued to create difficulties in manufacturing, particularly for transportation equipment manufacturers. Automobile manufacturing as well as the auto parts industry experienced plant closures and cutbacks in production, and output in this industry declined by 21 percent for the year. Clothing production (down 28 percent) and wood product manufacturing (down 14 percent) also fell sharply. Construction activity declined as investment in nonresidential structures was down. Business investment in residential construction also fell for the first time since 1998. Government spending slowed to 3.2 percent from 3.7 percent the previous year and consumer spending slowed to 2.6 percent from 3.8 percent. Real exports and real imports both fell in 2008, the former down by 5.3 percent and the latter down by 2.0 percent.
Manitoba posted its third consecutive annual rate of economic growth above the national average in 2008, as the economy expanded by 2.4 percent. Investment in non-residential structures provided a big boost, registering double-digit growth for the third year in a row. Major projects, such as the completion of the Manitoba Hydro building, continued work at the Winnipeg airport and on the Red River floodway contributed to the gains. Residential building investment also increased on the year. After growing 5.3 percent in 2007, output in manufacturing edged up last year. Gains in printing, transportation equipment, and agricultural machinery were only partially offset by declines in primary metal manufacturing, wood products and paper manufacturing. Growth in personal expenditures slowed to 4.2 percent, down from 5.0 percent growth posted in 2007. Similarly, growth in government expenditures edged down to 2.4 percent versus 2.7 percent a year earlier. Real exports contracted, falling 1.1 percent while imports expanded by 3.3 percent.
Saskatchewan posted the strongest rate of growth among the provincial economies, at 4.4 percent in 2008. This followed a 2.5 percent gain in 2007. Boosted by strong commodity prices and a bumper crop year, agricultural output jumped 22 percent. Manufacturing increased its output in 2008, notably for agricultural machinery producers and primary metal manufacturers; however, wood products fell for a third straight year. Consumer expenditures slowed to 5.5 percent, still a healthy rate, after having increased 6.4 percent in 2007. Government spending accelerated, rising 3.1 percent versus 2.3 percent a year earlier. Provincial exports managed 0.2 percent real growth down from 2.8 percent in 2007, while total imports slowed to 5.2 percent growth from 5.8 percent.
Economic activity in Alberta contracted 0.2 percent in 2008. Employment and population growth slowed (but still remained the highest in the country), likely affecting personal expenditures which only increased by 2.7 percent in 2008 compared to 6.5 percent in 2007 and 8.7 percent the year before that. Investment in residential structures fell 11 percent. Real exports declined by 1.5 percent, the first such decline since 1986. Growth in real imports slowed to 1.6 percent, down from 3.6 percent a year earlier. Manufacturing activity declined in 2008, as there was widespread weakness in the sector. 16 of the 21 sub-groups contracted. Oil patch related manufacturing suffered as chemical and petroleum refineries reduced their output. Wood products continued to be adversely affected by the downturn in the U.S. housing market as several mills closed. However, iron and steel pipe and tubing manufacturers bucked the trend, posting healthy increases.
British Columbia's GDP fell 0.3 percent in 2008 after having grown by 3.0 percent in 2007. The slowdown in U.S. housing construction along with a high Canadian dollar over the first half of 2008 were responsible for a sharp (18 percent) drop in output of the forestry sector, which had ripple effects on the economy. Output in forestry-related manufacturing, including sawmills and paper manufacturing, posted large declines. Real exports fell 6.8 percent last year following a small decline the previous year. The 2008 downturn was largely due to a drop in lumber products. Real imports fell into negative territory as they contracted 1.2 percent. Growth in personal spending decelerated in 2008 to 2.8 percent. This was the slowest growth since 2001. Purchases of durable goods fell as sales of cars and trucks declined.
Growth in the Yukon economy accelerated to 5.2 percent in 2008 from 3.6 percent the previous year. A full year of production from a new copper-gold mine resulted in a jump in shipments of metal ore. Reflecting this increased activity, the transportation and warehousing industry advanced. Real exports also expanded with this new production, up 23.3 percent. However, with the completion of the new mine in 2007, construction activity fell off in 2008. Investment fell over the year as investment in residential construction declined for the third year in a row while investment in non-residential structures declined by 37 percent after having expanded by 32 percent the year before. Partial completion of a new transmission line helped spur electric power engineering construction. Government investment in structures increased 23 percent. Growth in personal expenditures slowed to 4.2 percent from 4.5 percent in 2007, while growth in real imports slowed to 3.1 percent from 6.0 percent a year earlier.
The economy of the Northwest Territories suffered a dramatic reversal in fortunes between 2007 and 2008. After having expanded by 11.5 percent in 2007, the territorial economy contracted by 6.5 percent in 2008. Output at diamond mines fell in 2008, responding to a downturn in global demand. Oil and gas extraction also declined. The volume of exports fell 11.3 percent after having grown by 15.7 percent the previous year. However, real imports also declined, down 5.8 percent in 2008. Growth in consumer spending slowed to 2.3 percent from 3.9 percent while that of government spending plunged to only 0.2 percent after having increased by 3.0 percent a year earlier. Growth in construction activity slowed on the completion of the mine at Snap Lake. Business investment in non-residential construction managed to expand by 0.3 percent following four years of double-digit growth.
Nunavut has the smallest economy of all the regions in Canada. Economic activity in the Nunavut economy slowed to 5.5 percent following a 9.0 percent gain in 2007. Construction of the Meadowbank Gold Mine continued into this year providing a boost to economic activity. Non-residential business investment climbed 52 percent, while investment in machinery and equipment soared 76 percent. Real imports advanced 17.2 percent, reflecting these purchases. Mining experienced a setback in 2008 as shipments from the Jericho Diamond Mine fell off substantially. Real exports, in turn, declined 14.6 percent. Consumer spending decelerated, slowing to 4.9 percent from 5.4 percent a year earlier, while government spending contracted for the second consecutive year, falling 1.9 percent in 2008.
In 2008, job creation in Canada slipped to its lowest level since 2005. Employment grew by 1.5 percent, as 259,400 net new jobs were created. Roughly two-thirds of these were full-time jobs, although growth in part-time positions was more than double that of full-time ones (2.8 percent versus 1.3 percent). This was the second consecutive year in which growth in part-time positions outpaced that for full-time positions. However, the national unemployment rate edged up 0.1 percentage points to 6.1 percent (Figure 3-4).
Unemployment Rate in Canada, 2004-2008
Source: Statistics Canada
Also for the second year running, all provinces registered annual employment gains, although for some the number of people entering the provincial labour force was greater than the number of jobs being created, resulting in several provinces experiencing an increase in provincial unemployment rates (Figure 3-5). The western Canadian provinces experienced the fastest job creation, led by Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, at 2.8 percent, 2.2 percent, and 2.1 percent, respectively. Three quarters of the new jobs in Canada were created in Ontario (36.0 percent), Alberta (20.8 percent), and British Columbia (18.5 percent).
Unemployment Rates in Canada and Provinces, 2007-2008
Source: Statistics Canada
For the year, nine of every ten jobs created were in services, with the remaining one job in ten created in the goods-producing sector. A strong expansion of jobs in construction (up 98,700) and utilities (up 13,800) was partly offset by a 10,200 decline in agriculture and a 74,600 decline in manufacturing. For manufacturing, it was the fourth consecutive annual decline in employment. Moreover, manufacturing employment slipped below the 2 million mark in 2008; the last time it was below that level was 1996. Overall, for goods-producing industries, employment expanded 0.7 percent.
Employment in the services-producing industries grew at a faster 1.8 percent rate, with 231,000 additional jobs on the payroll. Professional, scientific and technical services, public administration, and health care accounted for the bulk of the gains, while setbacks in information, culture and recreation, the trades, and business, building, and other support services put a cap on the advances.
While the above analysis, which is based on annual averages, portrays a fairly positive picture on the employment front, the Canadian labour market has, nonetheless, been buffeted by the economic downturn experienced in the second half of 2008. The year began with the national unemployment rate posting a 33-year record low of 5.8 percent in January, followed by a record high employment rate of 63.9 percent recorded in February. Employment was on an upward trend and reached a peak level in October. Just two months afterwards, employment had fallen by 83,700 and the unemployment rate had climbed to 6.6 percent to close out the year. Moreover, early data at the start of 2009 showed that the pace of job losses was accelerating and the unemployment rate had sharply increased.
The Canadian dollar
Relative to the major currencies and based on annual averages, the Canadian dollar appreciated against the U.S. dollar and the pound sterling in 2008, by 0.8 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively. This marked the sixth consecutive year that the Canadian dollar had appreciated against the U.S. dollar (Figure 3-6). Continuing a trend that began a year ago, the dollar further depreciated against the euro, falling 5.8 percent last year. Finally, the dollar sharply depreciated against the yen, declining some 12.0 percent relative to that currency.
Annual Exchange Rate Indexes (2002=100)
Source: Bank of Canada
Major currencies were strongly affected by mounting concerns over a global recession, changing expectations about monetary policy rates, and by portfolio adjustments resulting from financial dislocations throughout 2008. The Canadian dollar traded over a wide range of 77.1 cents U.S. to nearly US$1.03. The Canadian dollar began the year at above parity as high prices for energy and metals supported the currency, and ended the year at around 84 cents U.S. reflecting the substantial pull back in commodity prices from near-record or record-high levels, as well as the factors noted above (Figures 3-7a and 3-7b).
Commodity Price and Exchange Rate Indexes
Source: Bank of Canada
Monthly Commodity Price and Exchange Rate Indexes in 2008
Source: Bank of Canada
Strains in global financial markets broadened and became more severe as the year progressed, culminating in the early autumn months of 2008 with the failure of Lehman Brothers and transforming the financial turmoil that began in August 2007 into the largest financial shock since the Great Depression. As the strain on financial markets grew, measures were taken by major governments and central banks to encourage credit flows. At the start of the year, weakness in economic activity and tightening credit conditions prompted the Bank of Canada to lower its key policy rate three times, by a cumulative 1¼ percentage points, to 3 percent. However, towards the middle of the year, the Bank became concerned about the risks of increasing inflationary pressures and the overnight rate was left unchanged. In the fall, inflationary pressures started to moderate, the global financial crisis intensified, global economic growth deteriorated, and the Bank resumed lowering its policy interest rate. In addition, on October 8, 2009, the Bank of Canada joined other major central banks to lower the overnight rate by 50 basis points in a coordinated action to reduce strain in financial markets (Figure 3-8). Further policy action to help improve financial conditions continued into 2009, with the Bank further reducing its key policy rate by another half percentage point, to 1 percent, in January, and by another 50 basis points, to ½ percent in March 2009.
The Bank of Canada Key Policy Rate
Source: Bank of Canada
As suggested above, prices were strong in the first half of the year but weakened towards the end of 2008. Over the course of the year, consumer prices fluctuated significantly on a month-to-month basis. On a seasonally adjusted basis, consumer prices advanced slightly by 0.1 percent in January, then climbed sharply by 0.8 percent in May, before finally posting consecutive price drops in the last three months of the year.
Despite the volatility, for the year as a whole, prices increased at a rate slightly higher than in 2007 (Figure 3-9). Consumers paid 2.3 percent more, on average, for the goods and services in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) basket in 2008 compared to 2007. It was the largest increase in inflation since the 2.8 percent rise registered in 2003.
CPI and Core CPI, 2004-2008
Source: Statistics Canada
Prices for gasoline, natural gas, and fuel oil and other fuels rose sharply in 2008 and contributed significantly to the overall increase in the CPI.
However, substantial decreases in prices for gasoline and fuel oil and other fuels were also responsible for falling consumer prices toward the end of the year.
Shelter costs rose 4.4 percent in 2008 and accounted for about half the increase in the CPI in the year. While the housing market has slowed in Canada, it was on balance strong during most of 2008. Continued strength in this market raised costs for owned accommodation and significantly contributed to the annual increase in the CPI last year. As with energy costs, owned accommodation costs also started to abate in the latter part of the year, especially mortgage interest and replacement costs.
Rising prices for several food items, particularly those associated with grain products, led to a sharp rise in food prices in 2008. On the other hand, price declines for electronic products, clothing and footwear items, and for purchasing and leasing passenger vehicles also helped to temper the increase in the CPI, as did a reduction in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from 6 percent to 5 percent in January 2008. Overall, seven of the eight major components of the CPI basket registered increases, led by price increases for shelter and food. Clothing and footwear was the only major component that experienced a decline.
On a provincial basis, growth in consumer prices continued to vary considerably across the country in 2008, but less so than in 2007. Increases ranged from a low of 1.7 percent in New Brunswick to double that in Prince Edward Island (Figure 3-10). Differences in shelter cost increases, which ranged from 3.1 percent in British Columbia to 9.7 percent in Saskatchewan, were mainly responsible for the large disparity amongst the provinces. New Brunswick and Alberta were the only provinces where consumer prices eased between 2007 and 2008.
Provincial CPI, 2008
Source: Statistics Canada
8. Canadian dollars per barrel (monthly averages), West Texas Intermediate Crude, as quoted inStatistics Canada Cat. No: 15-001, Gross Domestic Product by Industry, December 2008.
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