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For additional information relating to this article, please contact:

Thomas StorringDirector – Economics and Statistics
Tel: 902-424-2410Email: thomas.storring@novascotia.ca

November 08, 2019
INTERPROVINCIAL WORKERS 2002-2016

Statistics Canada has recently released revised and updated information on the number of people who report work (T4) earnings in one province while residing in another province. 

The number of net interprovincial workers refers to those coming to work in Nova Scotia from another province, less those leaving Nova Scotia to work in another province.  Net interprovincial workers have declined in the last two years, falling from a peak of -10,125 in 2014 to -5,630 in 2016.

Over the period from 2002 to 2016, there was an overall rise in the number of interprovincial workers outbound from Nova Scotia to other jurisdictions peaking at 26,840 in 2014 (including returns filed late or subject to adjustment).  In the last two years, the number of outbound interprovincial workers from Nova Scotia has fallen to 21,920.  The number of workers inbound to work in Nova Scotia from other provinces has been more stable, including 16,290 in 2016.  

The amounts earned by Nova Scotia workers in other provinces have declined to $0.89 billion in 2016; these workers also reported $0.21 billion earned inside the province. Incoming workers earned $0.39 billion for their work in Nova Scotia and a further $0.23 billion for work outside of Nova Scotia.

The rise in outbound interprovincial workers from Nova Scotia during 2002-2014 was concentrated in the construction sector, while there were also increases in oil/gas, mining, transportation, other services (administrative/support, waste management, arts/recreation), and professional/technical services.  Much of the decline in outbound workers from 2014-16 was due to a decline in outbound workers in these sectors.

The number of inbound workers coming to Nova Scotia from other provinces is notably concentrated in health/education/social services, agriculture/forestry/fishing (albeit declining) and, more recently in transportation.  

Note that these data do not include those who filed late or had adjusted returns.

Nova Scotia has its largest interprovincial worker flows with four provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Ontario and Alberta.  Outbound interprovincial workers from Nova Scotia destined for Alberta have declined from 10,905 in 2014 to 5,985 in 2016.  Net interprovincial workers between Alberta and Nova Scotia have declined from -8,995 in 2014 to -4,520 in 2016 (negative meaning more workers outbound from Nova Scotia than inbound from Alberta).  New Brunswick is a net positive contributor of interprovincial workers to Nova Scotia while Ontario and Newfoundland are net negative drains on interprovincial workers from Nova Scotia.  

The volume of interprovincial workers are comparatively smaller for the remaining 6 provinces (vertical axis scales are 1/10th. There are net positive interprovincial workers from Prince Edward Island and net negative interprovincial workers with all other provinces. 

In 2016, the net impact of interprovincial workers (incoming less outbound) amounted to a drain of 1.4 per cent on Nova Scotia's employment. This is measured as a share of resident workers plus those from other provinces working in Nova Scotia, less inbound workers to Nova Scotia.  Note that those inbound from another province may not count the number who work in both their home province and another province. 

Interprovincial workers had been a net gain for Nova Scotia from 2002 to 2004.  Compared with the rest of Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia had a smaller net drain due to interprovincial workers in 2016 though all Atlantic provinces experienced less net interprovincial worker outflow.  Net drain from interprovincial work is not just an Atlantic Canada phenomenon with net drains also reported in Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba (as well as Saskatchewan from 2002-2011 and 2016).  Alberta had the largest net gain at 2.2 per cent in 2016 (down from previous years) while Ontario was the only other province with positive net interprovincial workers.

The composition of Nova Scotia's outbound interprovincial workers was disproportionately male.  Incoming workers to Nova Scotia were also disproportionately younger and male, but to a lesser extent than observed among outbound workers.


Although there is a large number of interprovincial workers aged 18-24, this age cohort has been more balanced with a large number of both inbound and outbound workers.  In recent years, there has been a decline in outbound interprovincial workers aged 18-24 from Nova Scotia.  In contrast, the number outbound interprovincial workers from Nova Scotia in older cohorts has been higher, particularly for those aged 35-44, 45-54 and 55-64.  These cohorts make up the bulk of net outflow of interprovincial workers.

Younger age cohorts are typically observed to be more mobile.  This is clear when comparing net interprovincial workers by age cohort with net interprovincial migrants.  There was a stronger net interprovincial out-migration among the cohort aged 18-24.  For older cohorts, the propensity for net interprovincial work exceeded net interprovincial migration.

Note that interprovincial worker data is based on a taxation year while net interprovincial migration is observed from July 1 to June 30.   

The data presented in this analysis focuses on the period from 2002-2016.  This period coincides with a substantial rise in oil prices (USD, West Texas Intermediate) and associated investments in the mining/oil/gas sector - particularly in Alberta.  Alberta's investments (real $2012 chained) over this period echoed the fluctuations in oil prices.  The need for interprovincial workers to build oil-production facilities also followed this pattern, with an even stronger change in Nova Scotia-resident workers' contributions to the Alberta labour force.  Over the subsequent years, oil prices and resource investment in Alberta have declined substantially.  The impact that this has on patterns of interprovincial work can be seen in the 2016 data, with a decline in inbound workers to Alberta from the rest of Canada.  The decline in Alberta-bound workers from Nova Scotia has been even more pronounced.

Source: Statistics Canada, Estimates of inter-jurisdictional employment in Canada by province and territory (2002 to 2016), Statistics Canada table 36-10-0096-01US Department of Energy



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