OTTAWA - The recession as experienced by individual Canadians has been significantly longer and worse than the official record indicates, says a new report.

An analysis by Toronto-based Dale Orr Economic Insight found that Canada's economy has been on a downward spiral since 2007, not just since the fall of 2008 when the economy began contracting.

That's because once population growth is taken out of the calculation of the size of the economy, per capital gross domestic product has been contracting since the beginning of 2008.

Orr said Tuesday a truer measure of both the economy and how it is experienced by Canadians is real gross domestic product per capita. By that measure, Canadian standard of living fell both in 2008 and 2009 by a total of 4.3 per cent, or about one per cent more than the peak-to-trough drop in real GDP during the recession.

"From an individual's point of view, what really matters to them is not 'Is the economy growing?' but 'Is the economy growing enough so that there's more goods and services per person?"'

Because Canada's population has been growing at about 1.1 per cent per year, Orr says Canadians' standard of living fell slightly in 2008, when real GDP advanced 0.4 per cent, and tumbled this year by an estimated 3.5 per cent.

Individuals living in the larger provinces, with the exception of Quebec, have fared even worse.

The report estimates Albertans' standard of living has fallen 6.2 per cent since 2007, followed by Ontarians' by 5.8 per cent and residents of British Columbia, which saw their per capita GDP decline 5.3 per cent.

Quebecers have gotten off relatively easy with a fall-off of 2.3 per cent, largely because its manufacturers are focused on the aerospace sector, which has performed relatively well during the slump.

Orr said he compared his analysis on per capita GDP with another real-life measure, unemployment, and found an almost exact correlation. Ontario, Alberta and B.C. each had higher than average job losses, while Quebec's were below the national average.

A separate report from Statistics Canada released Tuesday also appears to coincide with Orr's findings.

The StatsCan release on Canadians collecting employment insurance shows the number of laid-off workers on benefits soared 7.1 per cent in September to 818,000, with Ontario, Quebec and B.C. leading the way.

In the past year, the number of workers collected EI jumped by 322 per cent in Alberta, 131 per cent in B.C. and 83 per cent in Ontario, all well above the 67-per-cent increase that has occurred nationally.

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