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For additional information relating to this article, please contact:

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

July 30, 2020


Nova Scotia had 349,444 payroll employees in May, a decrease of 4.1 per cent (-15,004) compared to April 2020, and down 17.3 per cent (-73,052) compared to last May.  Nova Scotia's payroll employment has been trending upwards since 2017, but declined sharply after February due to restrictions and closures resulting from COVID-19.

Canada had 13.7 million employees, a decrease of 4.1 per cent (-585,143) compared to last month and down 19.4 per cent (-3,278,610) compared to a year ago.

Compared to May 2019, Nova Scotia's payroll employment is down 17.3 per cent. Nationally, payroll employment is down 19.4 per cent in May 2020, with all provinces reporting decreases. The fastest payroll employment decline has been observed in Alberta (-20.8 per cent), Ontario (-20.4 per cent) followed by Quebec (-18.8 per cent) and British Columbia (-18.7 per cent).  

In May 2020, payroll employment was down 19.9 per cent in Nova Scotia's goods producing sectors. Goods sector payroll employment was down for manufacturing (-19.4 per cent), construction (-22.3 per cent) and forestry/logging (-23.2 per cent) sectors compared to April 2019.

Service sector employment was down 16.3 per cent in May 2020 compared to May 2019. Service sector payroll employment decreased the most in percentage terms in accommodation and food services (-57.5 per cent), arts/entertainment/recreation (-56.2 per cent) and other services (-31.4 per cent, including personal services such as hair care). Payroll employment increased only in finance and insurance (+0.6 per cent).


Changes in average weekly earnings reflect wage growth as well as changes in the composition of employment by industry/occupation/experience, and average hours worked per week.  During COVID-19, large employment losses have been reported in industries with relatively low average weekly earnings.  This means that average weekly earnings rises because those remaining employed are working in industries with higher average weekly earnings.  

Nova Scotians' average weekly earnings (including overtime, seasonally adjusted) increased 1.7 per cent ($17.19) from April 2020 to $1,013.44 in May 2020. Average weekly wages were up 12.0 per cent compared with May 2019. Canadians' average weekly wages increased 2.0 per cent month to month ($1,139.23 in May) and were 10.4 per cent higher than they were a year ago.

Across the country, there are monthly increases in all provinces except New Brunswick (-2.7 per cent), with the largest increases in Ontario (+3.1 per cent) and Saskatchewan (+2.3 per cent).

Compared to a year ago, average wages were higher in all provinces, with the largest increases in percentage terms reported in Prince Edward Island (+13.5 per cent), British Columbia (+12.2 per cent) and Quebec (+12.2 per cent). The slowest year-over-year growth in average weekly earnings was observed in New Brunswick (+6.9 per cent), and Alberta (+6.1 per cent).

In May 2020 (compared to May 2019), average weekly earnings were up 2.9 per cent in Nova Scotia's goods producing sectors. Goods sector wages were up for manufacturing and construction sectors. Service sector average earnings were up 13.9 per cent in May 2020. Service sector earnings increased the most in percentage terms in those industries with the largest employment declines: arts, entertainment & recreation (+27.5 per cent), and accommodation and food services (+16.2 per cent). The slowest increase in service sector earnings were in real estate/rental & leasing (+3.9 per cent) and professional/scientific/technical (+7.5 per cent). 


REFERENCE TABLES - (May 2020 vs May 2019)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, comparisons of year-to-date averages and sums do not show Nova Scotia’s rapidly changing economic situation. The DailyStats will focus on year-over-year comparisons, comparing one month with the same month in the prior year. Where possible the DailyStats will make comparisons of seasonally adjusted data from the pre-COVID-19 period (January and February 2020) with the period during which COVID-19 measures were in place from March 2020 onwards.

Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0222-01 Employment, average hourly and weekly earnings (including overtime), and average weekly hours for the industrial aggregate excluding unclassified businesses, monthly, seasonally adjusted; Table 14-10-0223-01 Employment and average weekly earnings (including overtime) for all employees by province and territory, monthly, seasonally adjusted

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