Unemployment Rate by Province

Nova Scotia’s unemployment rate dropped from 7.5% in 2018 to 7.2% in 2019 because employment grew faster than the number of people available. Nova Scotia had the lowest unemployment rate in Atlantic Canada at 7.2%, 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 0.7 percentage points from 9.1% in 2018 to 8.4% in 2019. On the other hand, the unemployment rate for females increased from 5.9% in 2018 to 6.0% in 2019.

Unemployment Rates by Province, 2019 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 15.6% in 2018 to 13.2 in 2019 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 20.7% to 16.8%, whereas youth ages 20 to 24 had a smaller decline of 1.8 percentage points, from 12.8% to 11.0%. 

The 60 to 64 years age group has the highest unemployment rate (7.1%) among workers over the age of 24 years in 2019, however this rate represents a decrease of 1 percentage point from 8.1% in 2018. The unemployment rates for older worker age groups, age 55 years and over, experienced increases in their associated unemployment rates. The 55 to 59 years age group increased by 0.5 percentage points, growing from 5.6% to 6.1% and the 65 years and over groups increased by 0.4 percentage points.

The lowest unemployment rate in Nova Scotia was among those aged 25 to 54 years and 55 to 59 years, each at 6.1%.

Unemployment Rates by Age Group, 2018 and 2019, 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 a 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 December 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. 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.

While the number of employment insurance beneficiaries has dipped lower than the prerecession levels, the number of unemployed people has remained elevated until 2019 when the average number of unemployed people fell below 37,000 people per month on average. The average length of time that people remain unemployed has declined since 2015 by about 2% per year on average and currently stands at 16.7 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 and 2019.

Regular Employment Insurance Beneficiaries (seasonally adjusted) December 2009 to December 2019