The onset of COVID-19 pandemic that started in March 2020 has wreaked havoc on Nova Scotia’s labour market and caused record year-to-year decline in labour force and employment levels.
Following a four-year upward trend since 2016, Nova Scotia’s labour force decreased from 502,300 in 2019 to 492,000 in 2020 (-2.1%), the largest year-to-year decline on the modern record of LFS (since 1976).
Nova Scotia experienced 21,400 job losses for all of 2020, a record 4.6% drop from 2019 with loss of 15,200 full-time jobs and 6,100 part-time jobs.
Key labour market indicators, participation rate and employment rate, also experienced record decline since the modern history of LFS (1976).
60.2% of Nova Scotians aged 15 and over participated in the labour market in 2020, down by 2 percentage points from 2019.
As a result of lower participation rate and higher unemployment rate, Nova Scotia's employment rate for those age 15 and over in 2020 was 54.5%, down by 3.2 percentage points from 2019.
The employment impact of COVID-19 is unevenly distributed among demographic groups and industries.
Youth (aged 15-24) experienced 7,800 job loss (-11.9%), the largest drop among all age groups. Their labour participation is also heavily impacted with 5.7 percentage points lower compared to 2019.
Nova Scotia women lost more jobs than men both in number and percentage terms. A total of 12,800 job loss felt by women was evenly distributed among full-time and part-time positions (6,900 FT and 5,900 PT), whereas the impact on male employment has been mostly focused on full-time employment (8,300 FT and 200 PT).
The industries that received the most employment impact in 2020 are wholesale and retail trade (12,500 jobs, -15.3%), accommodation and food services (6,500 jobs, -18.2%) and information, culture and recreation (3,100 jobs, -16.5%).
As the largest population center in NS, Halifax accounts for half of the provincial labour force and employment. Despite the stricter health measures implemented in Halifax during the last two months of 2020, it withstood the impact of COVID well compared to other economic regions. Halifax only accounted for less than one-third of the job loss experienced by the province in 2020. This can be partially attributed to the higher concentration of two industries in the region, finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing industry, and professional, scientific and technical services industry. These two industries received smaller labour impact and their high adoption rate of technology enabled a fast recovery and expansion.
Annapolis Valley received a heavy blow from the travel ban and restrictive health measures as its labour force is relatively concentrated in tourism and culture, and accommodations and food industries. The employment level in the region dropped by 9.6% compared to 2019, more than double the provincial change (-4.6%). The disproportionate impact may also be partially attributed to the stricter health measures in the Hants county during November and December 2020.