Canada’s population grew last year at the slowest pace in more than a century as Covid-related restrictions curbed immigration.

The nation’s population rose by just 0.4% in 2020 to 38,048,738, Statistics Canada reported Thursday in Ottawa. That was the slowest annual growth since 1916, during World War I. In absolute numbers, the 149,461 annual increase was the smallest since 1945.

A drop in international migration from closed borders was the main contributor. Canada recorded 184,624 immigrants in 2020, down by almost half from 2019. Also, more non-permanent residents left the country last year than came in, resulting in a loss of 86,535 people. That’s the largest net loss of foreign residents such as workers and students on record.

Over the past five years, immigration has accounted for more than three quarters of Canada’s total population growth but that figure dropped to 58 per cent in 2020. Immigration has been a key pillar of the country’s overall economic growth, impacting everything from the housing market to banking services.

The number of deaths last year also increased to a record, surpassing 300,000 for the first time in the country’s history. COVID-19 was responsible for one in 20 deaths, the report said. The natural rate increase in population -- the difference between births and deaths -- also fell to 62,834, the smallest increase since at least 1922.