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Iron worker

Lyle Stafford

It was called the next Great Depression, then dubbed the Great Recession.

Turns out, in Canada it was more like the Average Recession, according to a paper published Thursday.

Canada's 2008-2009 recession was "less severe and shorter" than in other G7 nations, said Philip Cross, chief economic analyst at Statistics Canada and author of its year-end review.

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Read more about the report: Was Canada's recession ‘average?'

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Here's a look back at six aspects of Canada's recession and why it was less severe than past downturns and the contractions of other global economies:





Auto making

Canada is a big producer of cars, vans and trucks, right? Wrong - last year, 84.4 per cent of autos made in the country were cars as production of trucks and mini-vans steadily dwindled.

Read more recent stories on auto making in Canada:

  • Ontario's auto sector gets fresh boost
  • GM shows a nimble touch in Oshawa
  • Slow recovery ahead, parts firms say
  • Incentives fuel big rebound in auto sales
  • Ford takes car sales crown, rivals struggle to keep pace
  • Ontario to invest $80-million in Ford plant


Bankruptcies

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Canada saw far fewer bankruptcies than in previous recessions. The number of business bankruptcies fell in both 2008 and 2009 - "an unprecedented development during a recession." Even in the consumer sector, where bankruptcies jumped 45 per cent, the increase was smaller than in previous recessions.

Read more recent stories on bankruptcies:

  • How to avoid filing for bankruptcy
  • Fewer Canadians declaring bankruptcy
  • Consumer debt loads are the new concern
  • Debt will bite consumers: report
  • Bankruptcies keep sliding

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Sectors

Manufacturing production accounted for just over half of the drop - 51 per cent - in total GDP in the recession, which is a lower portion than in previous recessions. Construction accounted for 12.7 per cent of the drop, followed by wholesale trade and transportation. Finance and government services expanded through all three recessions. And mining and construction, along with manufacturing, have been the fastest-growing sectors since last summer when the economy started to recover.

Read more recent stories on Canada's recovery:

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  • Canadian exporters ride resurgence in global trade
  • Business confidence takes hold
  • Multiple-unit building declines
  • Recovery: Just a matter of time

Banks

In Europe, 20 banks in 10 countries failed between July, 2007 and February, 2009. High-profile collapses in the U.S. included Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual. In Canada, no major financial institutions required government bailouts.

Read more recent stories on banks:

  • Flaherty tightens rules on cards, insurance
  • Canadian banks raise rates as finance costs rise
  • U.S. banks readying to snap back
  • Government's handling of WaMu ‘unfair:' Ex-CEO
  • U.S. inquiry fine drama, but misses the mark
  • Goldman fights accusations of greed
  • Bay Street over Wall Street: Safer – and sometimes richer


Credit

As confidence in U.S. financial institutions plummeted, borrowing in the financial sector dove 10.3 per cent last year - the first decline on record. In Canada, financial institutions increased borrowing by 6 per cent.

Read more on credit, lending and borrowing:

  • Commercial paper market shows few signs of recovery
  • Is Japan hurtling toward a debt crisis?
  • Goldman v. the pack on interest rates
  • Smaller firms give CIBC thumbs down: poll
  • Business confidence takes hold

Net worth

Household balance sheets weren't "ravaged" in the same way in Canada as they were in the United States. Net worth plunged 26.6 per cent in the U.S. over almost two years as the housing market buckled; Canada's 8.7-per-cent drop occurred over three quarters.

Read more recent stories on household finances:

  • Canadians unprepared for the Takeaway Decade
  • How to score the best mortgage rate
  • Rethinking that comfy retirement
  • Family finances: Flying solo or with a co-pilot?
  • Got a family? We're talking tax
  • How you can benefit with the dollar at par

Source: Statistics Canada

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About the Author

Tavia Grant has worked at The Globe and Mail since early 2005, covering topics from employment and currency markets to trade, microfinance and Latin American economies. She previously worked for Bloomberg News in Toronto and Zurich, writing on mining, stocks, currencies and secret Swiss bank accounts. More

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