Nova Scotia’s population reversed its negative growth trend in 2016 with a modest growth of 0.4% and 1% in 2017 respectively. According to Census 2021 Nova Scotia population grew to 969,383, which is 5% increase from 2016. Quarterly demographic estimates for Nova Scotia in 2022 indicate that the province surpassed 1 million as follows: Q1 – 1,022,441, Q2 – 1,007,360, Q3 – 1,019,725 and Q4 – 1,030,953, while Q1 in 2023 indicated provincial population was 1,037,782.

Regionally, population growth was positive in all 5 regions in 2022 with Halifax as the main driver. With additional 20,686 people in 2022 Halifax grew more than 2 and a half times than all other regions combined. Annapolis Valley gained 2,412 people, North Shore gained 2,325, Southern region gained 1,962 and Cape Breton gained 1,000 people. Prior to 2022, all regions except Halifax experienced continued negative population growth. Halifax experienced positive population growth each consecutive year for the past 10 years.

Compared to 2017 Nova Scotia’s overall population increased +52,200 or +6.6%, while compared to 2012 it grew +76,090 or +8.1%.

: Vertical bar chart titled “Population Change by Economic Region, 2021 to 2022, Nova Scotia, % Change from 2012 base year.” The vertical axis is %change running from -6% in increments of 5 up to 14%. Horizontal axis shows Nova Scotia, Halifax, North Shore, Annapolis Valley, Southern, and Cape Breton. Each region has three blue vertical bars. Dark blue = 2020. Medium blue = 2021. Light blue = 2022.

Regional Employment

Nova Scotia showed strong employment growth in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic. Growth was positive in four of the five economic regions, with only the Southern region showing negative employment growth. Employment levels have been influenced by the economic impact of the pandemic and by the declining population in most of the province’s economic regions. In 2021 the province recovered by +5.6% and then again in 2022 by +3.6%.

  • In 2020, the Halifax region saw the employment level decrease the least (-2.9%) of any region, and employment rose in the region by +5.4% in 2021. In 2022 employment rose by +4.8%.
  • Employment level in the Annapolis Valley was hit the hardest in 2020 (down by -9.7%) but rebounded strongly in 2021 with a gain of +8.1% and then again in 2022 by +7.4%.
  • The North Shore region posted the largest percentage gain in terms of employment in 2021, at +8.6, but then was the only region that had a decrease in 2022 – by -4.2%.
  • Cape Breton was the only region in which the employment level dropped in 2021, declining by -0.4% with a recovery in 2022 and an increase of +6.7%.
  • Southern region had employment growth of +5.4% in 2021 and then again experienced slight growth by +0.8% in 2022.

Vertical bar chart titled “Employment Growth, Nova Scotia Economic Regions, 2021 and 2022 year-over-year % Change”. Vertical axis shows % change from -6% at the bottom moving in increments of 2 up to 10% at the top. Horizontal axis shows Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, North Shore, Annapolis Valley, Southern, and Halifax. Vertical bars indicate % change by year. Two bars for each region. Medium blue = 2021. Light blue = 2022.

Regional Unemployment

  • For the past 10 years Nova Scotia’s provincial unemployment rate was the highest following Covid-19 in 2020 at 9.9%. In 2021 it fell to 8.6% and then again in 2022 to 6.5%.
  • Regionally, Cape Breton had the highest unemployment rate in 2022. However, it was the lowest in that specific region in the past 10 years, or since 2012. From 15.1% in 2020, it fell to 13.4% and then again to 11.3% in 2022, staying in double digits for the entire decade.
  • On the contrary, Halifax had the lowest unemployment rate regionally in 2022 and also the lowest for that specific region in the past 10 years. For example, at 4.9% in 2022 and compared to 2020 its unemployment rate was 1.8 times (or 3.9 percentage points) lower in 2022, even though it was in single digits for the entire decade.
  • Southern region and North Shore had the second highest unemployment rate after Cape Breton – both at 8.3% in 2022. This was the lowest rate for the Southern region since 2012 and the second lowest for North Shore (the lowest being at 7.5% in 2019). Southern region left a double-digit unemployment rate in 2017, while North Shore did it in 2015.
  • In 2022 at 5.2% Annapolis Valley had the second lowest unemployment rate after Halifax, lower than provincial average. In addition, Annapolis Valley's unemployment rate went down from 8.2% in 2021 and was almost 2 times lower than it was in 2012.

Table. Column headings are Economic Region, Unemployment Rate (percent) 2021 and 2022, year/year change (%), and Year/Year Change (percentage points). Rows top to bottom are Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, North Shore, Annapolis Valley, Southern, and Halifax.

Vertical bar chart titled “Regional Unemployment Rates, 2017, 2021, 2022, Nova Scotia, Ages 15+”. Vertical axis shows percentage in increments of 2 starting at 0 at the bottom and ending with 16% at the top. Horizontal axis shows Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, North Shore, Annapolis Valley, Southern, and Halifax. Vertical blue bars represent the unemployment rate. Three bars per region. Dark blue = 2017. Medium blue = 2021. Light blue = 2022.