Nova Scotia Labour Market Information: May 2021

An Update from Service Canada

Employment in Nova Scotia went down by 22,200—or 4.8%—in May as the province endured a four-week lockdown aimed at containing a third wave of COVID-19 cases. The number of unemployed jobseekers only increased by about one-third of that amount, at 7,200, as the remainder of the change was counted as ‘not in the labour force’. This served to limit the increase in the unemployment rate, which rose from 8.1% to 9.8%. A disproportionately large amount of job loss happened among part-time workers.

Despite the drop in employment this month, the number of workers was still substantially higher than one year earlier, in May 2020. The first wave containment measures, in place between March and June 2020, had a much more severe effect on the labour market. As a result, the number of workers was 10.8% higher this month than 12 months prior. Employment fluctuated considerably during that period, rising continuously between May and November 2020 as the economy recovered, then stabilizing at pre-pandemic levels between January and April 2021, and finally dropping again in May 2021.

Changes in all labour market indicators on a year-over-year basis were positive. The working age population increased by 0.8% as migration to Nova Scotia continued throughout the pandemic, and the labour force expanded by 6.3% as tens of thousands of individuals returned to work or began to seek employment. The increase in employment was divided proportionally between full- and part-time positions.

By broad age group, youth (15 to 24 years of age) experienced a more extensive employment loss this month than older age groups, an occurrence that has been observed during previous outbreaks. Youth are overrepresented in industries that are more affected by containment measures, such as retail trade and food services. Employment in this age group went down by 13.4%, driving the youth unemployment rate up from 12.5% to 16.4%. In comparison, employment among prime working age (25 to 54 years of age) and older (55 years and up) workers fell by 3.5% and 2.9% respectively, while the unemployment rates for both of these groups remained in the single
digits.

By sex, females experienced a larger decline in employment this month than males. This discrepancy was most pronounced among older workers, and among full-time prime working age workers. The disproportionate effect of containment measures on female labour force outcomes has been noted across the country throughout the pandemic.

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Regional Information

Year-over-year labour market changes in the Cape Breton economic region were mostly negative. Employment declined by 1.1%, all of which was part-time in nature. Despite the job loss, the unemployment rate went down by 2.7 percentage points (pp) as 2,500 individuals left the labour force. These developments yielded the lowest participation rate and highest unemployment rate in the province, at 48.1% and 15.5%, respectively. While most industries posted at least moderate job growth, these were offset by a large decline in employment in the wholesale and retail trade industry.

The number of workers in the North Shore economic region went up by 13.1% over the past year, recovering a large amount of the employment lost during March and April 2020. The labour force also expanded, but at a slower rate than employment, causing the unemployment rate to fall from 12.0% to 7.9%. Job growth was driven by a partial recovery in employment in the wholesale and retail trade industry. Notable gains also occurred in the following industries: manufacturing; other services; and professional, scientific, and technical services.

The Annapolis Valley economic region has also regained a large amount of employment during the past 12 months, during which the number of workers increased by 17.9%. The unemployment rate fell from 12.4% to 9.1% over the same period. The job growth was accompanied by an influx of labour market entrants, which pushed the participation rate to the highest level outside of the Halifax region. While a many industries experienced positive employment growth, the greatest increases occurred in health care and social assistance and wholesale and retail trade.

Employment in the Southern economic region went up by 14.3% between May 2020 and May 2021. As in some other regions, thousands of individuals entered the labour force during the same period, boosting the participation rate to 56.9%. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate declined by 5.9pp to 7.3%. The largest job gains during the past year occurred in the accommodation and food services, educational services, and construction industries.

The Halifax economic region added 25,100 workers year-over-year (+12.0%) which were split proportionally between full- and part-time employment. Despite the scale of this increase, the unemployment rate only declined by 1.6pp to 9.1%, well above its pre-pandemic level, because of a large increase in the size of the labour force. The working age population of Halifax increased by 1.8% during the past year, in large part due to migration, which may have contributed to the influx of labour force participants. Only one industry experienced an employment decline since last May: business, building and other support services. Among the other industries, large increases occurred in construction and accommodation and food services—representing a partial recovery from job losses in March and April 2020—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