• Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Nova Scotia’s overall employment levels were relatively stable since 2011. From 2011 to 2019, trends in employment levels by age group were mainly driven by demographics.
  • Over the past ten years the growth in Nova Scotia’s employment levels has been driven mostly by older workers aged 55 and over.
  • Employment for older workers increased on average 3.1% per year prior to the arrival of COVID (2011-2019). During the same period, employment increased by 0.3% per year on average among young workers aged 15-24 and declined by 0.6% among core-aged workers (25 to 54 years) – in both cases driven by demographics.
  • The economic shock resulting from the arrival of COVID-19 caused a 4.7% year-over-year drop in overall employment in 2020. The level of employment recovered the following year, gaining 5.4% in 2021.
  • Young workers suffered the largest drop in employment in 2020 at 12.7% but rebounded the most in 2021 with a 9.8% gain.
  • Core aged workers posted a 3.5% gain in employment in 2021 following a 2.7% decline in 2020.
  • Employment among older workers fell 4.8% in 2020, before increasing by 8.2% in 2021.
  • In the ten years following 2011, employment among older workers sits at 28% above the 2011 level, while employment among youth and core aged workers has only increased by 1% and 3% respectively.

Titled “Index Employment by Age Group, 2011 to 2021, Nova Scotia. Base Year 2011 = 100”. A line chart showing employment trend. Blue = Nova Scotia. Orange = 15 to 24 years. Gray = 25 to 54 years. Yellow = 55 years and older. The vertical axis is total employment. The horizontal axis shows each year from 2011 to 2021.


  • There were nearly as many women employed in Nova Scotia (231,100) as men (232,400) in 2021. 
  • Female employment was affected more by COVID-19 in 2020 (-12,200 jobs, -5.3%) than male employment (-9,200, -9.2%). However, female employment rebounded more strongly in 2021 (+12,700 jobs, +5.8%) than male employment (+11,000 jobs, +5.8%).
  • There continue to be differences in the types of industries in which males and females are represented. In 2021, 92.9% of females and 68.4% of males were employed in the service-producing sector. 
  • Comparatively, the goods-producing sector employed 31.6% of males and 7.1% of females in 2021.
  • There are also gender differences in the participation of males and females in part-time and full-time work. In 2021, a higher percentage of males (86.8%) were employed full-time compared to females (75.3%).
  • Part-time employment dropped due to public health restrictions in 2020, contributing to the drop in female employment, as women hold nearly two-thirds of part-time jobs. While female part-time employment was down by 5,600 jobs (-9.8%) in 2020, it recovered in 2021, as women gained 5,800 part-time positions (+11.3%).
  • In contrast, male part-time employment was down by 500 jobs (-1.7%) in 2020 and rose 2,300 jobs (+8.1%) in 2021.
  • Male full-time employment dropped by 8,600 jobs (-4.3%) in 2020, a greater decrease than among females (-6,600 jobs, -3.8%). However, in 2021 the employment level for both genders recovered and slightly exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Men gained 8,800 (+4.6%) jobs in 2021, while women gained 6,900 jobs (+4.1%). 

Table. Column headings are Nova Scotia Ages 15 Years and Over, Gender, Employment x 100 (covering years 2011, 2019, 2020, 2021), %Change 2011-2021, % Change 2019-2020, and % Change 2020-2021. Row sections are total employment, goods-producing, services-producing, full-time employment, part-time employment. Each row topic section has a row for values for both sexes, males, and females.

Employment Type

  • Employment in Nova Scotia decreased overall by 21,500 (-4.7%) from 2019 to 2020 as public health restrictions were put in place.
  • Employment recovered in 2021, and slightly exceeded the 2019 level (2,300 jobs, +0.5%).
  • The services-producing sector was hard hit from 2019 to 2020, as it shed 20,100 jobs (-5.4%). 15,000 of these jobs were held by women. By 2021 the sector has regained most of the jobs lost and is only 1,400 jobs (0.4%) short of 2019 levels. Male employment in this sector in 2021 is 400 jobs (+0.3%) higher than in 2019, while female employment remains 1,800 jobs (-0.8%) lower.
  • There were losses of 1,400 (-1.6%) positions in the goods producing sector between 2019 and 2020, most of these lost jobs were held by males (4,200) whereas female jobs in the goods sector increased by 2,800 (+19.9%). From 2020 to 2021, male employment in this sector increased by 5,600 jobs (+8.2%), while female employment fell by 500 jobs (-3.0%) following the strong gains of the previous year. Overall, the services-producing sector gained 5,100 jobs (+6.0%) in 2021 yet sits 1,400 jobs (-0.4%) short of 2019 levels.
  • 81.1% of jobs were full-time in Nova Scotia in 2021 (and 18.9% part-time), essentially unchanged from ten years ago (81.2% in 2011). However, this is down from 82.2% of positions in 2018.

Part-time employment can either be voluntary or involuntary. Someone may be voluntarily employed part-time because they are in school or have other reasons or personal preferences. Involuntary part-time is a result of being employed part-time due to business conditions or not being able to find work that offers full-time hours. The number of involuntary part-time workers decreased in 2021 by 600. Voluntary part-time employment increased from 13.5% in 2020 to 14.6% in 2021, likely reflecting increased labour demand as the economy recovered.

Titled “Full-time vs. Part-time Employment, 2020 and 2021, Nova Scotia Ages 15 years and over”. A vertical stacked bar chart with a bar for 2020 and a second bar for 2021. Dark blue = full-time. Medium blue = voluntary part-time. Light blue = involuntary part-time.

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