YEREVAN -- A sharp decline in construction put Armenia deeper into recession last month and caused its gross domestic product to shrink by 6.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.
National Statistical Service data show an almost 22 percent drop in the amount of construction work being done in the country from January-March as compared to last year.
Industrial output fell by 9.5 percent in the same period.
In 2008, industry for the first time contributed less to the economy than construction, reflecting a construction boom that has been a major force behind Armenia's robust economic growth in recent years.
In an effort to help the ailing construction industry, the Armenian government on April 9 approved 20 billion drams ($54 million) in loans for construction firms needing funds to complete their projects.
Authorities also hope to stimulate the housing market with a mortgage loans fund set up by the central bank this month.