Nova Scotia experienced negative population growth prior to 2016. For the past six years, population growth has been consistently positive and continued to grow in 2021 by 1.0%.

This population growth is almost entirely driven by one region, Halifax. The Annapolis Valley reversed its shrinking population trend in 2016 and maintained growth into 2021. The remaining three regions in Nova Scotia continue to experience negative population growth.


Vertical bar chart titled “Population Change by Economic Region, 2019 to 2021, Nova Scotia, % Change from 2011 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. Medium blue = 2019. Light blue = 2020. Dark blue = 2021.

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 2020, the Halifax region saw the employment level decrease the least (-2.9%) of any region, and employment rose in the region by 5.2% in 2021.
  • The 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%.
  • The North Shore region posted the largest percentage gain in terms of employment in 2021, at 8.2%.
  • Cape Breton was the only region in which the employment level dropped in 2021, declining by 0.8%.


Vertical bar chart titled “Employment Growth, Nova Scotia Economic Regions, year-over-year % Change”. Vertical axis shows % change from -12% at the bottom moving in increments of 2 up to 10% at the top. Horizontal axis shows Cape Breton, North Shore, Annapolis Valley, Southern, and Halifax. Vertical bars indicate % change by year. Three bars for each region. Dark blue = 2019. Medium blue = 2020. Light blue = 2021.

Regional Unemployment

Nova Scotia’s unemployment rate trended downward for nearly a decade leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rate declined from 9.6% in 2010 to 7.4% in 2019.

  • All five economic regions experienced reductions in unemployment rates in 2019 compared to 2015.
  • With the economic impact of COVID-19 the provincial unemployment rate rose to 9.8% -- a level not seen since 1998.
  • In 2021, all regions experienced decreased unemployment rates compared to 2019 as employment recovered.
  • The Southern region had the largest rate decline (-2.0 percentage points), followed by the North Shore region (-1.7 pp), Cape Breton (-1.4 pp), the Halifax region (-1.2pp), and the Annapolis Valley (-0.5 pp).


Table. Column headings are Economic Region, Unemployment 2020, Rate (percent) 2021, and Year/Year Change (percentage points). Rows top to bottom are Cape Breton, North Shore, Annapolis Valley, Southern, and Halifax.

Vertical bar chart titled “Regional Unemployment Rates, 2016, 2020, 2021, Nova Scotia, Ages 15 years and over”. 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 unemployment rate. Three bars per region. Dark blue = 2016. Medium blue = 2020. Light blue = 2021.

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