Nova Scotia Labour Market Information: December 2020

An Update from Service Canada

Nova Scotia added 16,700 workers in the fourth quarter (Q4 2020), approaching the level of employment observed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. For every seven workers laid off during the first half of 2020, approximately six have been rehired. A further sign of recovery was a shift back toward full-time employment: while part-time positions accounted for many of the jobs added during Q3 2020, all of the employment gained in the fourth quarter was full-time. The unemployment rate declined from 9.7% to 7.9%, which is roughly equivalent to the rate observed in the first quarter of 2020. Within Q4 2020, employment rose to a peak in November, but declined again in December, the same month the provincial government introduced additional public health restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19.

Employment declined by 1.0% compared with the fourth quarter 2019, reflecting the labour market’s incomplete recovery compared with stronger conditions observed throughout 2019. Despite the decline in the number of workers, the unemployment rate went down by 0.1 percentage points (pp) as a result of fewer persons in the labour force looking for work. At the same time, the working age population expanded by 1.0%, due in large part to positive interprovincial migration trends. The combination of the labour force contraction and population growth caused the labour force participation rate to decline by 1.2 pp.

The private sector experienced the effects of the pandemic more acutely than the public sector. Between Q4 2019 and Q2 2020, the private sector shed nearly one in five jobs, of which fewer than three quarters have been recovered. Compared with Q4 2019, the number of workers in the private sector is lower by 5.2%. At the same time, there have been employment gainsin the public sector and among self-employed workers, of 6.9% and 5.8%, respectively.

The employment recovery among youth (15 to 24 years of age) has lagged that of older age groups. Youth are overrepresented in industries such as retail trade and food services which were more affected by public health restrictions. Youth employment remains nearly 10% lower than one year ago. The youth unemployment rate increased by just 0.2 pp during the past year as a result of fewer youth in the labour force looking for work.

Outcomes have been more favourable for prime working age employees (25 to 54 years of age). The fourth quarter of 2020 marked a full return to pre-pandemic labour market conditions. Compared to one year prior, employment was up by 2.0%, the unemployment rate was 0.6pp lower, and the participation rate was 0.8pp higher. The recovery was comparable for both males and females in this group, and the employment gain was made up of both full- and part-time positions. Conditions among older workers (aged 55 years and older) have been mixed. Employment for this age group improved in the fourth quarter, but fell short of the level in Q4 2019 by 3.4%. Over the past year, the unemployment rate among older workers increased from 6.7% to 8.7%.

Changes in male and female labour market outcomes are roughly equivalent. Females were disproportionately impacted by employment declines earlier in the year. However, job gains among females in Q4 2020 exceeded those of their male counterparts, which served to mostly eliminate this gap.

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Regional Information

Of the province’s five economic regions, Cape Breton experienced the largest employment decline with 3,800 fewer workers compared with a year earlier. The decrease was divided nearly evenly between full- and part-time workers. The resulting change in the unemployment rate was relatively small, rising by 0.5pp to 12.4%, as 4,000 individuals left the labour force and were no longer searching for work. The majority of employment declines were in the trade and accommodation and food services industries. Several seasonal restaurant and tourist accommodation operators in Cape Breton reported closing earlier than usual this fall to stem financial losses caused by far fewer tourists than normal.

Employment was lower by 2,700 in the North Shore region. The employment declines were split between full- and part-time jobs. The unemployment rate went down by 1.4pp to 6.4%, as a result of 4,100 fewer persons looking for work. As in the rest of the province, much of the employment loss in the North Shore region was in the trade industry, however this was partially offset by gains in manufacturing and educational services.

Employment losses in the Southern region were limited, though there was a shift toward part-time work. The unemployment rate declined to 8.9% as several hundred people left the labour force. The participation rate also went down to 52.7%. Unlike other economic regions, trade industry employment was unchanged. Low number of COVID-19 cases in parts of the Southern region may have benefitted the region. On the other hand, the loss of visitors from outside of Atlantic Canada likely contributed to employment declines in some other industries.

Labour market conditions in Halifax appear to be quite positive. The region added 3,800 jobs, the majority of which were full-time, while the labour force expanded at an even faster pace. The unemployment rate edged up as a result of a higher number of jobseekers. The working age population also expanded by 2.1%, boosted by an influx of interprovincial migrants. Though employment levels were higher overall, employment changes among industries were mixed. In addition to employment declines in trade and accommodation and food services, notable losses occurred in information, culture and recreation and several goods-producing industries. Meanwhile, large gains occurred in industries with primarily office-based settings such as: finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing; professional, scientific and technical services; educational services; and public administration.

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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