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Thomas StorringDirector – Economics and Statistics
Tel: 902-424-2410Email:

February 13, 2018

Statistics Canada has released estimates of the population by county as of July 1, 2017.  Provincial population estimates for July 1, 2017 were released in September and updated to October 1 in December.  These population estimates should not be confused with Census counts.  Estimates of the population adjust for net undercoverage from the Census as well as incompletely enumerated Indian reserves.  The current estimates are still based on the results of the 2011 Census of the population.

Among counties, Halifax reported the fastest growth at 1.59 per cent from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017.  There was also population growth estimated for Antigonish, Colchester, Kings, Annapolis and Shelburne counties.  Population decline was faster in Queens, Cumberland, Guysborough, Inverness, Richmond, Cape Breton and Victoria counties.  There were smaller declines in Pictou, Hants, Lunenburg, Digby and Yarmouth counties.

Halifax's population has risen to 431,721 or 45.3 per cent of the provincial population.  Cape Breton county's population has declined to 97,823 and has 10.3 per cent of the provincial population.  The other three counties on Cape Breton accounted for 3.4 per cent of the provincial population (32,511).  Counties in the North Shore economic region had a population of 153,289 or 16.1 per cent of the provincial total.  Counties in the Annapolis Valley had 124,808 residents or 13.1 per cent of Nova Scotia's population.  The counties of Southern Nova Scotia had a population of 113,717 or 11.9 per cent of the provincial total.

Nova Scotia's population growth has been faster in the last two years.  While much of this growth has been attributable to ongoing increases in the population of Halifax, there have also been a slowing pace of decline - particularly in Southern Nova Scotia, the Annapolis Valley and Antigonish county.

Note: scales for all counties are set to 5,000 except Cape Breton (25,000) and Halifax (100,000).


Components of population change

Population estimates for counties change from one year to the next based on natural change (births, deaths), international migration (immigration, emigration, non-permanent residents), interprovincial migration (from one province to another) and intraprovincial migration (from one county of the province to another).  

Most counties reported more deaths than births between July 1 2016 and June 30 2017, contributing to natural population decline in all counties except Halifax, Kings and Hants.

Immigration has contributed to Nova Scotia's recent population acceleration.  In the last year, immigration was concentrated around Halifax with over 3,700.  The next highest numbers of immigrants added to Pictou, Kings and Cape Breton counties.

Likewise, net changes in the number of non-permanent residents were concentrated in Halifax.  Apart from Cape Breton, most other net changes in non-permanent residents were reported in the counties centred around Halifax.

Overall international migration (including immigration, net non-permanent residents and emigration) was concentrated around Halifax.  Although at a smaller scale Cape Breton, Pictou, Kings and Lunenburg counties reported higher contributions to population from international sources.  All counties reported some population gain from international sources.

Unlike international migration, interprovincial migration is more concentrated outside of Halifax.  Most counties reported positive interprovincial migration in the last year, with Southern Nova Scotia as well as Annapolis, Inverness and Guysborough counties reporting the largest gains.  Interprovincial migration continues to be a drain on the population of Cape Breton county, but the pace of net outmigration has abated in the last two years.

Net movements within the province have contributed to population increases in Halifax, Colchester and Annapolis counties.


Age cohorts

As the baby boom (born between 1946 and 1965) continue to expand the population over the age of 65 while fewer children are born, the share of populations under the age of 14 are declining in many counties, with exceptions in Shelburne, Annapolis, Kings, Halifax and Colchester.  The highest share of youth in the population are found in Hants, Antigonish and Colchester counties. 

Populations aged 15-39 are also declining in many counties.  However, growth of this age cohort in Halifax, Lunenburg and (to a lesser extent) Antigonish counties has kept the size of this cohort growing for the province as a whole.  The steepest declines in this population were reported in Victoria, Guysborough and Queens counties.  The counties with the highest share of the population aged between 15 and 39 were Halifax and Antigonish. 

The population aged 40-64 is declining in every county except Halifax.  This is the cohort from which large numbers of the baby boom are now aging past 65 years old.  The share of 40-64 year olds in the population is relatively consistent across the province, but slightly higher in Guysborough, Queens, Digby and Shelburne counties. 

The population over the age of 65 is rising in every county as the baby boom continues to reach this threshold.  The fastest growing populations aged 65+ are in Guysborough, Victoria, Hants and Halifax counties.  The highest share of populations over 65 are found in Victoria, Richmond, Guysborough, Annapolis, Queens and Digby counties.  The lowest shares of residents over age 65 are in Halifax and Hants counties.



Population growth is typically faster in urban areas.  Halifax's population growth of 1.59 per cent is typical of growth in Census Metropolitan Areas, where the national average growth was 1.5 per cent.  Populations outside CMAs in Canada grew by 0.5 per cent, while Nova Scotia's population outside the CMA declined 0.29 per cent.  

Source: Statistics Canada, CANSIM tables 051-0056051-0062051-0063

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