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Statistics Canada says the economy grew at an annual rate of 5.6% in the first quarter of the year.

The figure for the first three months of the year is better than the contraction first forecast months ago, but still represents a slowdown from the 9.6% annualized growth seen over the last three months of 2020.

The economic boost was aided by the loosening of public health restrictions that helped increases in goods-producing and services sectors.

The statistics agency says the quarter ended with an increase of 1.1% in real gross domestic product in March, following the 0.4% registered in February.

Construction expanded for the third consecutive quarter, driven by construction of single-family homes and renovations as Canadians looked to improve their houses or find a larger space.

Statistics Canada notes output in the public sector contributed the most to growth service-producing industries in the first quarter, including health care.

At the end of the quarter, Statistics Canada says overall economic activity was 1% below the levels seen pre-pandemic in February 2020.

Statistics Canada also estimates the second quarter started with a stumble, with a drop in economic output of 0.8% for April, which would be the first decline since April 2020.

The agency says April’s decline would leave overall economic activity about 2% below pre-pandemic levels in February 2020.

CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld writes that investors are already looking past the rest of the second quarter, hoping vaccinations will pave the way for stronger growth in the second half of the year.