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Canada revises down second-quarter productivity, first quarter up

Steam Whistle worker Claudia Prietor loads empty beer bottles on a conveyor belt for the bottle washer.

Mark Spowart/The Globe and Mail

Canadian labour productivity grew slightly faster in the first half of this year than previously estimated, according to revised figures released by Statistics Canada on Friday that also showed little change to the data over the past 30 years.

Statscan revised down its estimate of second-quarter productivity to a decline of 0.5 per cent from a 0.4 per cent decline previously. But in the first quarter, it said productivity actually grew 0.4 per cent versus its initial report of no change in that period.

Overall in the three decades from 1981 to 2011 the average productivity growth was revised down a notch to 1.3 per cent from 1.4 per cent.

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The data reflects historical revisions Statscan recently made to Canada's national accounts to align itself with updated international standards.

The revisions affected all the variables used to measure labor productivity in the business sector – gross domestic product, employment, hours worked and compensation.

Canada's poor productivity record compared with the United States is a sore point for policy makers, who urge businesses to invest more in machinery and technology to boost performance.

The revised data showed U.S. labour productivity growth is now 0.8 percentage point higher than in Canada for the 1981 to 2011 period, up from 0.7 point, and the gap widened to 1.5 points in the most recent decade.

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