Unemployment Rate by Province

Nova Scotia’s unemployment rate dropped from 8.4% in 2017 to 7.5% in 2018 because the number of people available to work decreased and employment increased. Nova Scotia had the lowest unemployment rate in Atlantic Canada at 7.5%, although it was above those of the remaining provinces.

The unemployment rate in Nova Scotia continues to be higher for males than females. The unemployment rate for males decreased 1.4 percentage points from 10.5% in 2017 to 9.1% in 2018. On the other hand, the unemployment rate for females decreased from 6.2% in 2017 to 5.9% in 2018.

Unemployment Rates by Province, 2018 Ages 15 years and over

Age Groups

In Nova Scotia and Canada, youth tend to have the highest unemployment rates among the different age groups. However, the unemployment rate for youth aged 15 to 24 years in Nova Scotia declined from 16.8% in 2017 to 15.6% in 2018 although it remains one of the highest in Canada.

The unemployment rate in Nova Scotia for workers age 15 to 19 was the primary driver of the decline in the youth unemployment with a drop from 22.0% to 20.7%, whereas youth ages 20 to 24 has a much smaller decline of 0.7 percentage points, from 13.5% to 12.8%. 

The 60 to 64 years age group has the highest unemployment rate among workers over the age of 24 years, 8.1%. The unemployment rates for all older age groups, age 55 years and over, experienced decreases in their associated unemployment rates. The 55 to 59 years age group had the greatest decrease of 1.3 percentage points, falling from 5.9% to 5.6%, whereas both the 60 to 64 and 65 years and over groups shrunk by 0.3 percentage points.

The lowest unemployment rate in Nova Scotia was among those aged 25 to 59 years at 6.1%.

Unemployment Rates by Age Group, 2017 and 2018, Nova Scotia

Location of Study

In Nova Scotia, those with a postsecondary education (PSE) had a lower unemployment rate (7.4%) in 2016, than the provincial unemployment rate. Unemployment rates differ across different types of postsecondary education and where the PSE credential was obtained.

Overall, those with a postsecondary education credential obtained in Nova Scotia had a higher unemployment rate than those who obtained their PSE outside Nova Scotia. This trend is influenced by those who had an apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma.

PSE credentials below a bachelor’s level degree that were obtained in another province had higher unemployment rates than credentials obtained in Nova Scotia. However, PSE credentials higher than a bachelor level degree obtained in Nova Scotia had higher unemployment rates.

The largest positive difference in unemployment rates between PSE credentials obtained in and outside Nova Scotia was between those with a degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry obtained outside of NS. Generally, this means in 2016, finding a job was easier for those who obtained a degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry in Nova Scotia compared to those that obtained it outside Nova Scotia.

On the other hand, the largest negative difference was between those with Trades certificate or diploma other than Certificate of Apprenticeship, which means generally, it was easier for those who obtained a Trades certificate outside Nova Scotia to find a job in Nova Scotia. It is important to note, there might be other explanations other than location of study that might contribute to these differences.

Unemployment Rates by Postsecondary Education (PSE) and Location of Study, Nova Scotia, 2016

Employment Insurance

The seasonally-adjusted number of Nova Scotians receiving regular Employment Insurance benefits has been falling steadily since peaking in the summer of 2009. 2013 experienced the greatest fall in the number of EI beneficiaries in NS, falling 10% that year and then decreasing by another 7% in 2014.

In September 2014 Nova Scotia had its lowest number of regular beneficiaries since April of 2008 and up to December 2018. 2015 saw an increase in EI beneficiaries of 7% and held steady at that level and increased slightly in 2017. In May 2018 the number of EI beneficiaries reaching its lowest level since January 2015.

While the number of employment insurance beneficiaries has dipped lower than the pre-recession levels, the number of unemployed people has remained elevated. The average length of time that people remain unemployed has declined since 2015 by about 1% per year on average and currently stands at 18.2 weeks.

The gap between people who are unemployed and those receiving employment insurance benefits peaked in late 2012 and then again in mid 2014. While the gap continues to fluctuate, there are trends towards it’s narrowing, particularly throughout 2018.

Regular Employment Insurance Beneficiaries (seasonally adjusted) January 2008 to January 2019