Canada’s population grew by nearly half a million people last year, sharply higher than depressed 2020 levels as international migration returned to historically elevated pre-pandemic numbers.

The number of people living in Canada rose by 1.2 per cent, or 457,888, to 38.5 million in 2021, according to Statistics Canada estimates released Thursday in Ottawa. That’s up from 160,273 the previous year, and closer to the record population-growth levels in the years before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Most of the population gain came from international migration as the Canadian government eased most travel restrictions for those coming to the country for work, school or family reunification. Net international migration levels jumped to 400,176 last year, almost four times as many as in 2020.

In the final three months of 2021, population grew by 0.2 per cent, or 90,313. It’s the second biggest fourth-quarter population increase in the past three decades.