Nova Scotia Labour Market Information: October 2020

An Update from Service Canada

Nova Scotia’s labour market improved in October. The number of persons employed grew by 2,800, following a larger increase of 12,000 in September that coincided with the re-opening of schools that month. Nova Scotia has regained more than 80% of the jobs shed in March and April when restrictions connected to the pandemic were introduced. All of the growth in October was in full-time work.

As the labour market improved, a large number of persons entered the labour force in search of work in October resulting in a rise in the provincial unemployment rate to 8.7% compared to 7.9% the previous month. This brought the provincial unemployment rate closely in line with the national rate of 8.9%. Nova Scotia’s unemployment and participation rates have improved but there remains elevated levels of persons not in the labour force that wanted to work compared with February, before the provincial restrictions came into effect.

Compared with October of last year, there are 8,600 fewer persons employed in Nova Scotia, a majority of this decrease was in full-time jobs. At the same time, there are fewer Nova Scotians participating in the labour market, and the rate of unemployment has risen by half of a percentage point during this period.

Among broad age groups, the number of employed prime age workers (25-54 years of age) has returned to levels observed last October. While the number of employed youth (15-24 years of age) and older workers (55 years of age and older) remains below last year’s levels. Youth experienced the greatest employment declines as a result of the pandemic restrictions, falling by more than a third in March and April 2020. The youth unemployment rate was 13.9% in October, similar to the rate recorded last October but 6,700 fewer youth are participating in the labour force.

Employment levels remain lower for both males and females from a year ago. Though females have experienced greater job gains since May 2020, these were not enough to offset larger job losses in March and April 2020. Notably, the labour force participation gap between men and women was relatively stable through the year in Nova Scotia, rising by less than a percentage point through March and April before returning below the level observed in February. Nationally, this gap was wider through the summer months coinciding with the closures of schools and child care facilities, and remained elevated in October at 9.1 percentage points.

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Regional Information

Employment was below the levels observed in October 2019 in all economic regions of Nova Scotia, except the Southern economic region, where it was little changed. In the Cape Breton economic region, there were 2,300 fewer persons employed. The drop in employment was in full-time work. At the same time 3,000 persons left the labour force and were no longer searching for work. With fewer people in search of work the unemployment rate fell to 12.6%. Though the region has benefitted from a number of large construction projects, it was one of the regions, along with Halifax, most impacted by the drop in tourism. There was also a notable decline in employment in the business, building and other support services industry that corresponded with the months since the pandemic restrictions were put in place.

The North Shore economic region experienced more negative labour market impacts resulting in 4,700 fewer persons employed and a slight rise in the unemployment rate to 7.2%. Among industries, the largest employment decline occurred in the wholesale and retail trade. Employment in the manufacturing and forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas industries was also negatively affected by lower tire production, lower demand for seafood and the closure of the Northern Pulp mill this year. Exports of tires so far this year are down by nearly a quarter from their levels last year.

The Annapolis Valley experienced the largest decline in employment among economic regions with 5,600 fewer persons employed compared with last October. Fewer jobs resulted in a sizeable increase in the unemployment rate to 7.9%, up from 6.0% last October. The largest employment declines occurred in the wholesale and retail trade industry. The region has a large share of workers in the agriculture industry, and though some products, like frozen blueberries, have been experiencing strong demand, employment was down slightly from last October.

In Nova Scotia’s Southern economic region, employment levels were little changed from last October. However, a large number of people joined the labour force in search of work which resulted in a rise in the region’s unemployment rate to 10.6%. Among industries, the largest employment decline occurred in manufacturing, which includes seafood processors. Low demand for seafood products has impacted seafood processors more negatively than fishers in recent months as the fishing season for the area traditionally runs from November to May.

The Halifax economic region is home to more than half of Nova Scotia’s workers. Employment levels in the region were down only slightly, by 2,200, compared with last October. Meanwhile, Halifax’s unemployment rate rose rather noticeably to 8.0% from the rate of 6.3% last year as a result of a large number of people joining the labour force in search of work. Halifax was the only economic region to see significant population growth and the labour force participation rate has recovered to its pre-pandemic level. Like other regions, the largest employment decline occurred in the wholesale and retail trade and accommodations and food services industries. Nearly half of the persons employed in the health care and social assistance industry live in the Halifax region and employment in this industry has declined by 4,100 or 11.1%. On a more positive note, professional, scientific and technical services and education industries experienced large employment increases, helping to boost provincial employment.

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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