Statistics Canada was in a reflective mood this week. “As 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we take a look back at the history of GDP as a means to examine the Canadian economy,” StatsCan said at the end of its latest report on Canada’s inflation-adjusted gross domestic product. The agency then presented a vignette from its archives.
The first release of the agency’s contemporary monthly GDP report was in the summer of 1981. This was a tough period in Canada’s economic history. The economy contracted 1.4% in July 1981 and another 0.5% in August, the two months covered in that initial report. The shock came from within. StatsCan said the decline was mainly attributable to a British Columbia forestry strike involving 60,000 workers.
Think about that number for a second. In December 2016, there were only 47,000 British Columbians employed in forestry, fishing, mining, and oil-and-gas combined. In the early 1980s, forestry and logging accounted for 1% of Canada’s GDP. Today that figure is about 0.2%. It explains why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is so obsessed with the middle class. The economy his father oversaw has been transformed.
History is where StatsCan is strongest. However, it struggles to keep up with the demands of economists who prefer their data in real time.
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