Unemployment Rate by Province

Nova Scotia’s unemployment rate rose from 7.4% in 2019 to 9.8% in 2020 due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nova Scotia, however, continued to have the lowest unemployment rate in Atlantic Canada, although it was above those of the remaining provinces, except for Alberta.

The unemployment rate in Nova Scotia continues to be higher for males than females. The unemployment rate for males increased 2.0 percentage points from 8.5% in 2019 to 10.5% in 2020. However, the unemployment rate for females increased by 2.7 percentage points, from 6.3% in 2019 to 9.0% in 2020.

Unemployment Rates by Province, 2019 Ages 15 years and over

Age Groups

An interesting fact happened to youths in 2020. Although the unemployment rates for youth ages 15 to 19 grew from 17.1% to 20.2%, the number of workers that were unemployed remained the same between 2019 and 2020. It was the size of the labour force for this age group that declined (28,700 in 2019 to 24,300 in 2020) that caused the unemployment rate to increase. Youth ages 20 to 24 experienced both job losses and a decline in the size of their labour force which caused the unemployment rate to rise from 11.1% to 15.6%. 

In 2020 the 60 to 64 years age group has the highest unemployment rate (11%) among workers over the age of 29 years, increasing 3.6 percentage point from 7.4% in 2019. This age group lost 1,000 jobs and had the greatest decline in labour force size, a loss of 3,400 workers.

Unemployment Rates by Age Group, 2019 and 2020, 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 types of postsecondary education and where the PSE credential was taken. Overall, those with a postsecondary education credential taken in Nova Scotia had a higher unemployment rate than those who earned 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 taken in another province had higher unemployment rates than credentials taken in Nova Scotia. However, PSE credentials higher than a bachelor level degree taken in Nova Scotia had higher unemployment rates.

The largest positive difference in unemployment rates between PSE credentials taken in and outside Nova Scotia was between those with a degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, or optometry taken outside of NS. Generally, this means in 2016, finding a job was easier for those with a degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, or optometry in Nova Scotia compared to those that gained 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 attained 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 January 2012. The greatest fall in the number of EI beneficiaries in NS was in 2013, falling 10% that year and then decreasing by another 7% in 2014. In September 2014 Nova Scotia had its lowest number of regular beneficiaries. 2015 saw an increase in EI beneficiaries of 7% and held steady at that level and increased slightly in 2017. In July 2019 the number of EI beneficiaries reaching its lowest level in 20 years.

The gap between people who are unemployed and those receiving employment insurance benefits peaked in late 2012. Data indicate that the smallest number people that were unemployed and not receiving benefits occurred during 2018 and 2019. However, with the impact of COVID-19, and the interruption to employment insurance, the data for 2020 shows a large difference between the number of people unemployed and the number receiving employment insurance.

Workers that were unemployed between March 15th and October 3rd, 2020 were able to claim the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). In the graph below, it is reasonable to assume that the gap between the unemployment level and the employment insurance beneficiary level are predominately CERB recipients.

Employment insurance data for October shows a very large increase in employment insurance recipients. At this point in the year, CERB benefits ended and the criteria to claim employment insurance was reduced. Unemployment figures for the last quarter of 2020 show that there are fewer workers reporting as unemployed than there are employment insurance recipients, this is likely due to workers temporarily leaving the labour force until employment prospects improve.

Regular Employment Insurance Beneficiaries (seasonally adjusted) January 2012 to October 2020

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