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Canada's underground economy totalled $45.6-billion in 2013, or about 2.4 per cent of gross domestic product, according to new figures from Statistics Canada.

Three industries – residential construction, retail trade, and accommodation and food services – accounted for more than half of underground economic activity.

Statscan defines the underground economy "as consisting of market-based economic activities, whether legal or illegal, that escape measurement because of their hidden, illegal or informal nature," and also notes that "some illegal activities, such as those related to drugs and prostitution, have been excluded" from its results.

At the household level, the top areas of underground expenditure were food and beverage services ($461 per household), rental fees for housing ($406), tobacco ($211), alcoholic beverages ($160), and the operation of transportation vehicles ($117).

The underground economy as a proportion of total GDP has stayed stable at 2.4 per cent since 2002.

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