Statistics Canada says the economy grew 0.4% in August before apparently flatlining in September to close out the third quarter of the year.
Leading the way in August was a rise in activity in accommodation and food services, retail trade and air travel, all of which have been hit hard by Covid-19 and helped by easing of public health restrictions.
Weighing down the economy in August was the country’s agriculture sector, which posted its second straight monthly decline that Statistics Canada notes were the largest back-to-back monthly contractions since it began collecting comparable data in 1997.
The agency is providing a preliminary estimate for September that suggests real gross domestic product was essentially unchanged for the month.
Statistics Canada says gains in several sectors were more than offset by a significant drop in manufacturing and decline in retail trade, hinting at the supply-chain bottlenecks that have weighed on growth.
The estimate for September suggests the economy grew at an annual rate of 1.9% in the third quarter, but that figure could change once the agency finalizes figures next month.
Statistics Canada says total economic activity in August was about 1% below pre-pandemic levels recorded in February 2020, a gap that didn’t change in September.
TD Bank senior economist Sri Thanabalasingam says closing that remaining gap could be challenging because global supply-chain disruptions and labour market imbalances could crimp output across sectors for months to come.
On Wednesday, the Bank of Canada revised down its projection for growth in the third quarter of the year to 5.5% from an annualized rate of 7.3% in its previous forecast.
“With supply constraints expected to continue to weigh on the economy through the fourth quarter, output may fall well short of the Bank of Canada’s projection,” Thanabalasingam writes in a note.
“Indeed, with today’s release, the bank may need to, once again, adjust its narrative on the Canadian economy.’
Governor Tiff Macklem warned high inflation rates are likely to go higher as supply-chain issues worsen in the coming weeks. He added the bottlenecks should eventually work themselves out.
CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld said Friday the impact from bottlenecks should lessen over 2022 if the source of problems, often Covid-19 outbreaks abroad, heals.
On Friday, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland was in Rome to meet with her G20 counterparts where she planned to push countries to better share vaccines, which could reduce global outbreaks weighing on trade.
Freeland has previously said the government is keeping an eye on Canadian ports for signs of strain, but the Opposition Conservatives on Friday called on the government to do more to unclog supply chains and help grow the domestic economy.
“As global economies continue to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, it has never been more critical to have a plan to tackle the significant economic challenges on the horizon,” Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said in a statement.
O’Toole in a letter to Trudeau last week called on the government to work with the private sector and White House to shore up the North American supply chain given global challenges.