Julian Beltrame
The Canadian Press
March 3, 2009

There’s no sign Canada is close to pulling out of an alarming economic nosedive that began last fall, resulting in the worst quarterly contraction in nearly two decades.

Economic activity from October to December fell 3.4 per cent on an annualized basis, the biggest drop since the severe recession of 1991, according to Statistics Canada.

Possibly more alarming was that Canada’s gross domestic product was a full percentage point lower in December than in November, which was worse than October, indicating the slide was accelerating.

“What is really troubling is the feeling of being in free fall,” said economist Dale Orr, who now heads a new forecasting firm in Toronto. “Where is the bottom? It’s not here yet.”

Given the record 129,000 job losses reported in January, some economists say the 2009 first quarter - which ends March 31 - could see Canada’s gross domestic product plunge another six per cent.

That would rival the worst two months of the 1990-91 recession, which saw consecutive quarterly contractions of 3.3 per cent and 5.9 per cent.