RTTNews - New Zealand's recession continued unabated in the first quarter of 2009.

Statistics New Zealand reported Friday that the nation's Gross Domestic Product declined 1.0 percent in the three months to March. It marked the 5th straight quarter of declining GDP.

The quarterly contraction was the largest in 18 years. It was larger than the 0.7 percent decline forecast by most economists.

Statistics NZ said manufacturing activity declined by 7.2 percent in the March quarter.

Household spending fell 1.4 percent in the quarter, the biggest contraction since the 1991 recession. The drop was attributed mainly to lower sales of cars, furniture and major appliances.

Business investment in plant and machinery was also down sharply, falling 6.1 percent.

Nearly all manufacturing sub-industries decreased this quarter, with the food, beverage, and tobacco; machinery and equipment; and metal product sub-industries recording the largest falls, Statistics NZ said. Partly offsetting the decreases in GDP in the latest quarter was an increase in real estate and business services, which rose 3.2 percent.

For the three month period, construction was up 0.4 per cent, following four quarters of contraction. The rise in construction activity was mainly due to a rise in the other construction category which includes non-building areas such as roads, bridges, railway maintenance and power plants.

Compared to one year earlier, New Zealand GDP was down 2.7 percent. For the year through March 31, GDP declined 1.0 percent, marking the first full-year average decline since 1992.

The construction sector was down nearly 9.0 percent for the full year.

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