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. In 2021, it declined to 8.4% as the province’s economy recovered. It continued declining in 2022 and reached 6.4%.

  • Nova Scotia had the lowest unemployment rate in Atlantic Canada in 2021 and in 2022, even though it was higher than for the rest of the provinces.
  • The unemployment rate in Nova Scotia continued to be higher for males than females in 2022.
  • Male unemployment was 7.3% in 2022 down from 9.7% in 2021, which the lowest unemployment rate for males in the past 10 years.
  • Female unemployment was 5.7% in 2022 and it also was the lowest unemployment rate for females since 2012.

A vertical bar chart titled “Unemployment rates % by province, 2022”. Vertical axis showing percentages running from 0% at the bottom in twos to 16% at the top. The horizontal axis shows a vertical blue bar for Canada and then one for each province from left to right lowest to highest. IN order provinces are QC, MB, BC, Sk, CA, ON, AB, NS, NB, PE, NL.


Age Groups

In 2022, youth (ages 15 to 24) labour force increased by +300 (+0.45%), while youth unemployment rate fell to 11.5%, from 14.2% in 2021 – the lowest since 2012. Male youth unemployment rate at 13.1% was higher than female youth unemployment rate at 10%, even though both are down from 2021 and both are the lowest since 2012 for both sexes in this age group.

In 2022, core age workers (25 to 54) in the labour force increased by +5,400 (or +1.7%) to 316,700 since 2021, while their unemployment rate fell to 5.2% in 2022 from 7.1% in 2021. Male unemployment rate in this age group stood at 6.2%, while the female unemployment rate was 4.2%.

Labour force 55+ years of age increased +1,100 or +0.9% since 2021, while its unemployment rate fell to 6.7% in 2022 from 8.8% in 2021.

A vertical bar chart titled “Unemployment Rates by Age Group, 2021 and 2022, Nova Scotia”. Vertical axis shows percentages from 0% at the bottom running in increments of 2 up to 20% at the top. Horizontal axis has age groups running in increments of 5 from 15 to 19 years up to 65 years and over. Each 5 year increment has two vertical blue bars with the dark blue = 2021 and medium blue = 2022. A light blue line shows the percentage for total 15 years and over.

  • In Nova Scotia, and Canada, youth (ages 15 to 24 years) tend to have the highest unemployment rates relative to other age groups. The economic recovery in 2021 led to a decline in the unemployment rate for those aged 15 to 24 from 17.2% in 2020, to 13.5% in 2021, which continued in 2022 to 11.5%.
  • Job gains were also seen among older workers (65+), as their employment level rose by +1,000 (+3.8%) in 2022. The number of unemployed in this age group was essentially unchanged year-over-year, however unemployment rate in 2022 for this age group was down to 7.1%.

A vertical bar chart titled “Youth, core working-age and older workers, change in labour force and unemployment from 2021 to 2022, Nova Scotia. The vertical axis shows change in employment running from -6,000 on the bottom in increments of 2,000 to 6,000 at the top. The horizontal axis shows age ranges: 15 to 24 years, 25 to 54 years, and 55 years and over. Each horizontal axis label has two blue bars. Dark blue = change in labour force. Medium blue = change in unemployment.

Location of Study

  • In Nova Scotia, those with a postsecondary education (PSE) had a lower unemployment rate in 2021, than the provincial unemployment rate. Unemployment rates differ across different types of postsecondary education and according to 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 2011, 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, Trades certificate or diploma other than Certificate of Apprenticeship obtained in the province made it easier generally for those who obtained either in Nova Scotia to find a job in Nova Scotia. This differs than the situation in 2016 when unemployment rate for those with noncertified trade obtained in Nova Scotia was higher than for those who obtained it outside of the province.

a vertical bar chart titled “unemployment rates by postsecondary education (PSE) and location of study, Nova Scotia 2021”. Vertical axis shows percentage starting with 0% on the bottom in increments of 2 up to 18% at the top. Horizontal axis shows: postsecondary overall, postsecondary below bachelor’s degree, non certified trade, certified apprentice, bachelor’s degree, university above bachelor’s, degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, or optometry; master’s degree, earned doctorate. Each label has two vertical bars. Dark blue = PSE in NS. Medium blue = PSE in other province. There is a light blue line indicating all PSE.

Employment Insurance

The seasonally adjusted number of Nova Scotians receiving regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits trended downward between January 2012 and February 2020. It spiked from October 2022 to September 2021 and then went down from January 2022 onwards (including January 2023).

  • The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nova Scotia resulted in unprecedented effects on the number of unemployed and those receiving EI. Workers that were unemployed between March 15th and October 3rd, 2020 were able to claim the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) – which provided temporary financial assistance.
  • In the spring and summer of 2020, the difference between the number of unemployed and the number of EI beneficiaries expanded, as the number of unemployed rose and the number of EI beneficiaries declined due to many applicants being redirected to the CERB program.
  • As the CERB program was wound down in the fall of 2020, the criteria to claim EI was temporarily reduced to include workers not eligible in the past, such as students, youth, and occasional workers.  This was done to transition CERB recipients to EI. As a result, the number of EI beneficiaries was, unusually, higher than the number of unemployed workers from October 2020 through September 2021.
  • The number of unemployed overtook the number of EI recipients once again in October through December of 2021, as the temporary eligibility enhancements to EI ended. By January 2022, the number of seasonally adjusted EI recipients fell to 31,320 – approaching historical norms. This trend continued to present time, including January 2023.

A line chart titled “regular employment insurance beneficiaries (seasonally adjusted) January 2012 to January 2023”. The vertical axis shows the total from 10,000 at the bottom going in increments of 10,000 up to 70,000. The horizontal axis shows the months in increments of four months running from Jan-2012 on the left to Jan-2023 on the right. The medium blue line = EI beneficiaries. The dark blue line = unemployment. The light blue shaded space between the two lines = unemployed not receiving EI.