RTTNews - Canadian industries continued to reduce their rate of capacity utilization in the first quarter of 2009, according to data released Thursday by Statistics Canada.

Industries operated at 69.3% of production capacity, down 5.6 percentage points from the previous quarter. It was the first time that industrial capacity use fell below the 70% level since the start of the data series in 1987.

Economists expected a rate of 71.5 percent.

Stats Canada said that in the first quarter, durable goods industries, especially the transportation equipment industry, the construction sector, and the mining sector (excluding oil and gas extraction), were the main contributors to the overall decline.

Weakened global and domestic demand for manufactured goods continued to drive down capacity utilization rates. Of the 21 major industries in the manufacturing group, 18 registered lower rates.

For the second straight quarter, the transportation equipment industry led the decline in the manufacturing group. Capacity use in this industry fell from 58.3% in the fourth quarter to 42.5% in the first quarter of 2009.

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