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Mining does economy's heavy lifting in April


In an era of bumpy growth and volatile shifts, one sector in Canada is showing persistent strength: mining.

Mining and energy extraction is by far the country's fastest-growing sector, tallying growth of 9.7 per cent in the past year. That compares with 6.2-per-cent expansion in construction and 4.1 per cent in agriculture.

Momentum in mining continued in April, with the sector growing the most in percentage terms for the month, Statistics Canada's figures show. That growth took some of the sting out of a slump in manufacturing, which left Canada's GDP flat.

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The gains show "strength in commodity prices in last few years is translating into real economic activity," says Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns.

Hunger for Canadian minerals is fuelling new projects and causing existing mines to ramp up production. Companies extracted copper, nickel, lead, zinc and coal in the month, even as natural gas production eased.

Hot mining is also showing up in employment numbers. Employment in mining and quarrying, and oil and gas extraction has surged 14.9 per cent in the past year, the largest percentage increase in the past year, according to Statscan's separately-released payrolls data, also released Thursday.

The numbers are encouraging for the Canadian economy -- but the sector is still a small part of the country's entire GDP. Mining and energy account for just 4.6 per cent of output, Mr. Porter says. It's also a small part of the jobs picture -- manufacturing, health, education and retail trade still employ many more people in total.

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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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