Nova Scotia Labour Market Information: April 2021

An Update from Service Canada

Employment in Nova Scotia edged down by 0.2% in April as the number of full-time workers declined. Part-time employment increased, but not enough to fully offset the loss of full-time work. Despite the lower employment level, the unemployment rate went down from 8.6% to 8.1% as 3,500 people exited the labour force.

Despite the slight decline in April, employment levels in Nova Scotia remained high from a historical perspective, exceeding 465,000 for just the fourth time on record and leading the country in terms of recovery from the employment declines that occurred one year ago. However, in late April 2021, the provincial government introduced strict containment measures in response to a new COVID-19 outbreak. Most of these restrictions came into effect after the April Labour Force Survey (LFS) was conducted, so their effects on the labour market will not be captured until the May survey.

April marks one year since the labour market bore the full effect of containment measures implemented during the first wave of COVID-19. Against that baseline, employment has increased by 18.9% year-over-year, while the labour force has expanded by 13.4%. The unemployment rate in April 2020 was 12.3% and has declined by 4.2 percentage points (pp) over the past 12 months.

Long-term unemployment remains a challenge for some residents of Nova Scotia. The number of jobseekers unemployed for 27 weeks or more was 11,500 in April, approximately twice the pre-pandemic level observed in February 2020. This suggests that while total employment has essentially returned to normal, some previously employed individuals have been persistently excluded from the recovery.

The three broad age groups have experienced the labour market recovery over the past year differently. In the months leading up to the pandemic, youth employment (15 to 24 years of age) had risen to historically high levels. This age group was hardest-hit by employment declines during the first wave, due in part to their overrepresentation in the retail and food service industries. Since then, 86% of youth employment shed between February and April 2020 has been recovered. The present youth employment level—65,900—is comparable to levels observed during the first half of 2019, but well short of the higher levels noted during late 2019 and early 2020.

For prime working age individuals (25-54 years of age) and older workers (55 years of age and older), the recovery from COVID-19 has been more complete. While prime working age employment levels fell by 35,600 during March and April 2020, it has risen by 36,000 in the 12 months since, with a slight shift toward more full-time work. Employment among older workers has grown even faster, surpassing the threshold for a full recovery by 2,100 workers— or approximately 16%.

The pandemic has affected male and female labour market outcomes differently. From March through August 2020, for example, females experienced more extensive job loss and a larger increase in unemployment rates. Though overall female employment levels have since recovered, other labour market gaps could persist, particularly those which are difficult to measure like labour force attachment.

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Regional Information

Cape Breton was the sole economic region to experience year-over-year employment declines, falling by 6.6% since April 2020. The wholesale and retail trade industry accounted for the majority of the loss, with most of the change occurring among part-time workers. On the upside, some other services-producing industries such as professional, scientific, and technical services employ more workers than before the pandemic. Despite the overall decrease in employment since April 2020, the unemployment rate fell from 16.7% to 14.4% as 5,000 individuals left the labour force. This also pushed the labour force participation rate down to 47.2%, the lowest in the province.

Employment in the North Shore economic region increased by 8.3% over the past year. Most key indicators have nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels, including the unemployment rate, at 9.0% and the labour force participation rate, at 57.7%. There has been a shift from full- to part-time work, however. The wholesale and retail trade industry in this region has fared better than elsewhere, while manufacturing and professional, scientific, and technical services employ more workers than in February 2020, prior to the pandemic. Substantial year-over- year declines occurred in the construction and accommodation and food services industries.

The number of workers in the Annapolis Valley economic region appears to have largely rebounded from the low employment level observed in April 2020, albeit with a slight shift toward more part-time employment. The unemployment rate has declined since last April, but remains somewhat elevated at 9.5%, while the labour force participation rate is the highest in the province among economic regions outside of Halifax, at 58.9%. Employment has increased in the majority of industries year-over-year, with the exception of manufacturing, accommodation and food services, and public administration.

The number of workers in the Southern economic region reached 50,000 in April, marking a major recovery from the lower levels of employment observed one year prior. As in some other regions, there has been a shift toward a larger share of part-time employment, however. The unemployment rate has declined below pre-pandemic levels, at 7.7%. Most industries have gained workers year-over-year in this region. Exceptions were wholesale and retail trade, professional, scientific and technical services and agriculture, which all experienced a moderate decline.

Labour market conditions have been the most positive in the Halifax economic region. Job growth since April 2020 has exceeded the threshold for recovery by several thousand workers, and, unlike other economic regions, the job gains have been in full-time work. Despite declining since last April, the unemployment rate remains somewhat above pre-pandemic levels. This is due to a quickly expanding labour force, which has driven the labour force participation rate up to 68.8%, the highest in the province. Employment has expanded in most industries since April 2020, led by construction and professional, scientific, and technical services.

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Prepared by: Labour Market Analysis Directorate, Service Canada, Atlantic Region
For further information: please contact the LMI team
For information on the Labour Force Survey: please visit the Statistics Canada Website