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Thomas StorringDirector – Economics and Statistics
Tel: 902-424-2410Email:

June 30, 2021

With April reference month results, year-over-year (Apr 2021 vs Apr 2020) and year-to-date (Jan-Apr 21 vs Jan-Apr 20) are beginning to show the rebounds in economic activity from the unprecedented declines observed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Canada declined 0.3% in April 2021, following 1.3% growth recorded in March 2021. This month's result follows eleven consecutive monthly increases after the steepest drops on record in March and April 2020.  The monthly decline was due to contraction in service-producing industries (-0.6%) which was only partially offset by gains in goods-producing industries (+0.5%). Overall, 12 of 20 industries were down. 

The Canadian economy was 1.2% smaller when compared to pre-pandemic February 2020 with an annualized value of $1,979 billion (chained 2012 dollars) in April 2021.

Statistics Canada’s preliminary estimate for real GDP points to an approximate 0.3% decline in May 2021. Declines in retail trade, construction, and real estate and rental and leasing contributed the most to declines, partially offset by gains in finance and insurance and wholesale trade. The official GDP data for May 2021 will be published on July 30, 2021.

Goods-Producing Industries

Goods-producing sector output increased 0.5% month-over-month in April 2021 with higher activity in construction, mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction, and agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting.

Construction activity increased 2.4% in April with increases in all subsectors. Residential building construction rose 4.1% with continued growth driven by single-family home and multi-unit dwelling construction compensating for lower activity in home improvement and renovations.

Mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction increased 1.4% in April. Metal ore mining continued to grow this month, with growth in iron ore and copper, nickel, lead and zinc mining. Oil and gas extraction edged up 0.2% as crude petroleum and natural gas extraction offset declines in oil sands extraction.

Manufacturing real GDP declined 1.0% in April. Durable manufacturing declined 1.8% concentrated in transportation equipment, while non-durable manufacturing decreased 0.2% with five of nine subsectors posting declines.

Utilities real GDP was down 1.2% with lower electric power generation, transmission and distribution and natural gas distribution. The decline was due to warm weather and reduced industrial and commercial output.

Services-Producing Industries

Output of services-producing sector declined 0.6% in April 2021.

Accommodation and food services declined 4.6% in April as lockdown measures were reintroduced in many parts of Canada to contain the third wave of COVID-19 outbreaks. Food services and drinking places was down 6.5% while accommodation services rose 0.5% despite the continuation of travel restrictions.

Retail trade was declined 5.5% in April following two months of growth, with declines in 10 of 12 subsectors. Lockdown measures restricted non-essential shopping. Clothing and clothing accessories, building material and garden equipment, and sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores posted the largest declines.

Wholesale trade was down 0.2% in April with declines in 7 of 9 subsectors. Building material and supplies and personal and household goods wholesaling rose on the month.

Real estate was down 0.7% for the first time since October 2020. Home resale activity slowed in the majority of urban centres in April. Legal services and scientific research and development were down, while computer systems design, architectural, engineering and related services grew.

Public sector (educational services, health care and social assistance, and public administration) grew 0.3% in April with growth in health care and social assistance and public administration. Educational services declined 1.3% in April on lower activity in elementary and secondary schools. This atypical decline in output was due to the Government of Ontario’s decision to move spring break from mid-March to mid-April.


April 2021 vs February 2020

Canadian real GDP was 1.2% lower when compared to February 2020.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery, the largest declines in activity have been in arts, entertainment and recreation (-52.9%), accommodation and food services (-35.5%) and management of companies and enterprises (-21.0%). Activity increased the most in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (+9.4%), finance and insurance (+4.9%) and construction (+4.8%) from February 2020.

Year-Over-Year (April 2021 vs April 2020)

Canadian real GDP was 20.0% higher than in April 2020, at the height of COVID-19 restrictions in the first wave. The largest rebounds, in percentage terms, have been in accommodation and food services, retail trade, and other services (personal, repair). Utilities and management of companies declined relative to April 2020.

Year-to-Date (Jan-Apr 2021 vs Jan-Apr 2020)

The Canadian economy in the first four months of 2021 increased 0.7% compared to the same period in 2020.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery, the largest increases in activity have been in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (+8.8%), retail trade (+7.1%), and finance and insurance (+5.7%). Activity decreased the most in arts, entertainment and recreation (-46.8%), accommodation and food services (-27.7%) and management of companies (-18.7%).

Source: Statistics Canada, Table 36-10-0434-01 Gross domestic product (GDP) at basic prices, by industry, monthly (x 1,000,000)

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