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Third quarter GDP not glowing

OTTAWA, Ont. -- Statistics Canada has released the latest numbers on the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) and...

OTTAWA, Ont. — Statistics Canada has released the latest numbers on the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) and most industries look weaker than they were.

In fact, the July-September quarterly growth was the weakest since the first quarter of 1991. GDP was dragged down by the goods sector, although the services sectors maintained a healthy pace. Industrial production contracted 2.3 per cent, mostly due to continued sluggish manufacturing performance, the federal agency reports.

Transportation declined for the fourth quarter in a row. Although truck transportation contributed the most to the downward trend, paralleling the weakness in manufacturing, the sharp drop in air transportation in the third quarter occurred entirely in September.

Significant slowdowns were reported in mining and oil and gas extraction, a decline of 2.4 per cent). As well, falling commodity prices reduced the incentive for new exploration.

Low water levels and weaker domestic and U.S. demand pushed down electricity production, affecting utilities by 3.0 per cent). The drought that occurred across the country this summer held back crop production, while a trade dispute diminished logging activities, pushing the quarterly growth in the agriculture and forestry sector down 3.7 per cent, its weakest value since the first quarter of 1988.

Total manufacturing fell 2.1 per cent in the third quarter. Weakness in the fabrication of computers and electronic products, transportation equipment, wood and paper led the overall retreat. Cutbacks continued in computer and electronic production, which slipped a whopping 13.8 per cent, as domestic and foreign demand kept their downward trend, leading to inventory write-offs and layoffs.

U.S. and Canadian auto sales also retreated, causing the transportation equipment sector to reduce output by 1.5 per cent. This slip was accentuated by massive border delays, as well as parts supply problems after Sept. 11.

Sluggish demand, as well as export uncertainty, hampered wood production and it fell 1.5 per cent, after a flat second quarter. In total, 14 of 21 major manufacturing groups, accounting for 75.9 per cent of total factory output, cut production.

Retail trade slipped 0.9 per cent, its sharpest drop since the first quarter of 1997. Weaker sales of cars and trucks led the decline, followed by lower customer traffic at service stations and in clothing stores.

On the bright side, textile mills’ output increased a healthy 2.3 per cent, following three negative quarters. Higher production in July and August pushed petroleum and coal production up 1.5 per cent for the quarter, despite a 10.7 per cent drop in September, mostly attributed to planned maintenance shutdowns.

Information and cultural services continued its upward trend, led by telecommunications service providers. After two strong quarterly increases, real estates services increased only 0.9 per cent in the third quarter, caused by a sharp 2.9 per cent drop in September activity.

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