Inflation hard to measure amid pandemic due to changing buying patterns: StatsCan

Canada’s $343 billion-dollar economic dilemma
WATCH: Canada's $343 billion-dollar economic dilemma

Statistics Canada says Canadians’ buying patterns changed so much during the COVID-19 pandemic that its measure of consumer inflation went a little wobbly.

The agency previously reported that year-over-year inflation declined by 0.2 per cent in April, then took a further drop of 0.4 per cent in May as lockdowns put a damper on consumer spending.

Read more: Inflation rate cooled to 0.9% in March as coronavirus pandemic set in

But a look under the headline figures showed consumers were spending more on items that don’t weigh as much in the consumer price index, which tracks inflation.

And they were spending less on things that weigh more in the calculation, such as gasoline.

$343-billion deficit projected for 2020-2021 fiscal year
$343-billion deficit projected for 2020-2021 fiscal year

In a numbers experiment to better reflect pandemic spending, Statistics Canada found the annualized inflation figures for April and May would have been 0.0 and -0.1 per cent.

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The research paper made public today was aided by data from the Bank of Canada, which targets an annual inflation rate of two per cent as measured by Statistics Canada’s consumer price index.