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A garment worker walks through a clothing factory in Montreal on Jan. 31, 2020.

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Canadian manufacturing activity tumbled in March to its weakest in at least nine years, data showed on Tuesday, providing some of the clearest evidence yet of the domestic economic damage from the spreading coronavirus pandemic.

The IHS Markit Canada Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ index (PMI), a measure of manufacturing business conditions, fell to a seasonally adjusted 46.1 in March, the lowest in data going back to October, 2010, from 51.8 in February. A reading below 50 shows contraction in the sector.

The weak data came as the coronavirus outbreak interrupted economic activity globally and a price war between major oil producers triggered a collapse in the price of oil, one of Canada’s major exports.

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“Shrinking customer demand was almost exclusively attributed to production stoppages at home and abroad amid emergency public-health measures to halt the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tim Moore, economics director at IHS Markit.

“Some manufacturing companies cited an additional fall in new business related to a sharp drop in spending by clients in the energy sector,” Mr. Moore said.

The output index plunged to 41.2 from 51.5 in February, while the measure of new orders was down sharply to 41.0 from 51.7, the data showed.

Ottawa is providing about $95-billion in support for Canada’s economy, including wage subsidies, loan programs and tax deferrals, while the Bank of Canada has slashed interest rates to nearly zero in a series of emergency moves this month and plans to buy government debt.

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