OTTAWA - Wholesale trade and manufacturing accounted for most of the decline as economic activity fell 0.2 per cent in February, a much lower pace than in the first half of 2007.

Statistics Canada recorded other notable declines in retail trade, oil-and-gas extraction and exploration, as well as in the transportation and financial sectors.

Advances in the tourism and government-related industries and in construction were not enough to offset these declines.

Wholesalers of motor vehicles and of building supplies bore much of the burden as wholesaling activity fell 1.4 per cent in February after advancing rapidly in January.

Sixteen of 21 manufacturing groups declined as the sector's value added fell 0.7 per cent in February.

Durable and non-durable goods accounted almost equally for the decrease, although significant declines were recorded by wood product, and petroleum and coal product manufacturers.

Output of wood products has been trending down since January 2006, reflecting mainly the drop in sawmill activity, as lumber exports, notably to the United States, have decreased considerably since the U.S. housing slump.

Some petroleum refineries in the West were subject to unscheduled maintenance shutdowns in February, resulting in a 5.1 per cent drop in production.

Manufacturing of transportation equipment advanced 2.1 per cent in February, led by a hefty gain in the production of motor vehicles, which increased by about eight per cent for the second straight month.

The energy sector fell 0.9 per cent in February. The oil-and-gas extraction industry contracted 0.7 per cent, dragged down by a decrease in natural gas extraction, while exports and storage of natural gas declined.

The production of petroleum increased while the price of oil reached record high levels. Exports of crude oil were up substantially.

The output of the mining sector excluding oil and gas edged up 0.1 per cent in February.

Value added in the retail trade sector fell 0.6 per cent in February. Like wholesaling, the declines were widespread.

Lower volume of activity at pharmacies, clothing stores, and new-and used-car dealers, was behind the decline.

Construction activity increased 0.2 per cent in February, a slightly faster pace than in January. All types of construction projects moved forward in February.

The home resale market fell considerably with more than half the decline coming from Ontario.

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