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

September 04, 2020

Labour force survey results reflect the period from August 9 to 15, when public health restrictions had been substantially eased in most parts of the country. Business and workplaces continued to re-open and there continues to be public health measures in place (physical distancing, mask requirements, and limits on large gatherings).

Nova Scotia's seasonally adjusted employment level was up 7,200 (+1.6%) in August following on the recovery of 8,600 jobs in May, 28,900 in June and 3,400 in July. Nova Scotia’s employment had previously declined 50,600 in April and 24,800 in March.

Nova Scotia’s employment remains lower by 27,300 (-5.8%) compared to February 2020 as the COIVD-19 pandemic and public health measures continue their impacts on the labour market.

Nova Scotia’s labour force increased 5,300 (+1.1%) to 494,500 for August.  The labour force in August 2020 is smaller by 16,400 (-3.2%) than February 2020. The number of unemployed persons was down 2,000 compared to July and is 11,000 higher than February. With employment growing faster than the labour force, the unemployment rate decreased 0.5 percentage points to 10.3 per cent August.

The population not in the labour force decreased 4,500 compared to last month. Compared to February 2020, there are an additional 20,500 persons not in the labour force and 11,000 unemployed.





In August, full-time employment declined 1,600 (-0.4%) while part-time employment increased 8,900 (+11.3%). Employment since February 2020 is lower by 24,400 (-6.4%) in full-time jobs and -2,900 (-3.2%) in part-time employment. Changes in the number of hours worked, can results in change in part-time vs. full-time employment.

With the population steady (+0.1%) in August 2020, the increase in labour force increased the participation rate 0.6 percentage points to 60.5 per cent.  The participation rate remains 2.3 percentage points below the level observed in February 2020. The employment rate was up 0.9 percentage points to 54.3 per cent in August 2020 but remains 3.6 percentage points below February 2020.




In addition to those who have lost employment since February 2020, there are elevated numbers of persons who are counted as employed, but had zero hours (and not for routine reasons like vacation, maternity/parental leave, labour dispute) or had their hours cut by 50 per cent or more. In August 2020 in Nova Scotia there were 34,200 persons employed but at less than 50 per cent of their usual hours (including zero hours), down from 40,500 in July but still elevated compared to 19,700 in February.  Combined with those who have lost their employment, this amounts to about 8.9 per cent of Nova Scotia’s February 2020 employment level; down from a high of 26.3 per cent in May.  The largest total employment/hour impact in August 2020 was in Ontario at 10.7 per cent of February's employment level. The smallest change was in New Brunswick (5.2%).

Statistics Canada reported in supplemental information that Nova Scotia had an increase of 5,200 (Feb-20 to Aul-20) of those who were not in the labour force but wanted to work. This is down from the 35,100 increase when comparing Feb-20 to May-20.

The labour underutilization rate (COVID-19 impact definition) is the proportion of the potential labour force (labour force + those wanting work) that is unemployed, not in labour force but wanted work or employed but have lost the majority of their usual hours.

Rising labour underutilization observed in every province during March and April has started to come down over the summer months. In February 2020, Nova Scotia's labour underutilization rate was 13.9 per cent.  This underutilization increased to 36.8 per cent in April 2020 and has subsequently fallen to 20.2 per cent in August 2020. The current highest labour underutilization rate is in Newfoundland and Labrador (27.9%) and the lowest rate is in Manitoba (16.9%).





Age Cohorts

The participation rate for younger Nova Scotians (15-24) decreased 3.0 percentage points to 61.9 per cent in August. However, the participation rate for core-aged Nova Scotians (25-54) increased 3.3 percentage points to 87.8 per cent in August. For older workers, the participation rate was down 1.0 percentage points to 32.0 per cent.

From July to August, employment rates were down for youth (-1.1 percentage points) and older workers (-0.3 percentage points), but up for core-aged workers (+2.6 percentage points). Compared with February 2020, employment rates were down for youth (-12.8 percentage points), core-aged workers (-1.8 percentage points) and older workers (-2.5 percentage points).

From July to August, unemployment rates declined 1.9 percentage points to 18.9 per cent for ages 15-24 and 2.0 percentage points to 9.9 per cent for those over 55. For core-aged workers, unemployment rate increased 0.6 percentage points to 8.6 per cent in August.


Comparing August to February 2020, the decline in employment mostly lines up with declines in labour force for youth and old workers. For core-aged workers, the decline in employment shows up in increased unemployment instead of a decrease in the labour force.




Males and Females

For August 2020, the monthly participation rate increased by 0.5 percentage points among Males to 63.8 per cent and by 0.7 percentage points to 57.4 per cent among Females.

The employment rate was up 0.1 percentage points for Males and by 1.6 percentage points for Females.

The monthly unemployment rate decreased by 1.7 percentage points among Females to 8.5 per cent and increased by 0.5 percentage points to 11.9 per cent for Males.




Compared with February 2020, male labour force is down 7,700 (-3.0%) while female labour force is down 8,500 (-3.4%). Male employment is down 14,900 (-6.3%) while female employment is down 12,400 (-5.3%). The number of unemployed is up 7,200 for males and 3,800 for females. The male population not in the labour force increased by 9,700, while the number of females not in the labour force grew by 10,600.






Sectors and Industries

The monthly employment increases in August were mostly among private sector (+8,100) employees. Private sector employment in Nova Scotia is growing again after a decline in July. Self-employment (-1,100) declined and public sector employment (+300) was insignificantly changed in August. Compared to February 2020, employment remains lower in the private sector (-34,300) and self-employed (-1,100); while public sector employment (+8,900) is higher.

For August 2020, goods-producing sector employment (+1,000) increased with job gains in construction, manufacturing and utilities. Employment declined in forestry, fishing, and mining (-1,500) and agriculture (-600). Service-producing employment gained 6,300 jobs with largest number in accommodation and food services (+3,300), other services (+2,700), educational services (+2,500) and professional, scientific, and technical services (-+1,400). Employment in wholesale and retail (-2,100), business, building and other support (-1,400) and health care and social assistance (-1,300) declined compared to last month.


Employment since February 2020 remains 5,900 lower in goods-producing industries with the lower employment levels in manufacturing (-3,700), construction (-1,800) and agriculture (-1,000). Service-producing employment is lower by 21,300 since February 2020 with the lower levels in wholesale and retail trade (-12,900) and accommodation and food service (-9,500) accounting for the largest number of job losses that have not been recovered.

Employment levels in August 2020 are also lower in transportation and warehousing (-1,300), health care and social assistance (-2,100), building, building and other support services (-2,600), information, culture and recreation (-2,900).

Employment levels are higher in August 2020 than February 2020 in educational services (+3,800), professional, scientific, and technical services (+2,600), personal/repair (other) services (+2,000) public administration (+800), and finance and insurance (+500).




Regions – August 2020 vs. August 2019 (unadjusted 3 month moving average)

Comparing August 2020 with August 2019, Cape Breton employment is down 2,900 while the labour force is down by 1,400. The number of unemployed increased 1,400 and the unemployment rate increased 2.8 percentage points to 15.9 per cent.

For the North Shore region, the labour force decreased by 7,300 while employment decreased 9,900. With the labour force declining less than employment, the number of unemployed increased by 2,600. This caused a 4.5 percentage points increase in the unemployment rate from 6.9 per cent to 11.4 per cent.

The Annapolis Valley reported a decrease of 3,900 in the labour force and a decline of 5,700 in employment. Unemployment was up 1,800 and the net result was an increase in the unemployment rate by 3.5 percentage points to 10.2 per cent.

Compared to August 2020, the Southern region had an increase of 3,500 in the labour force along with an increase of 1,900 in employment. The unemployment rate increased 2.5 percentage points to 11.6 per cent.

Halifax recorded an increase of 900 in the labour force while employment declined by 11,300. With unemployment rising 12,200, there was an increase of 4.6 percentage points in the unemployment rate from 5.7 per cent to 10.3 per cent in Halifax. The number of persons not in the labour force increased 7,900 in Halifax compared to last year.





Provincial Comparisons

All provinces, except New Brunswick, report increases in employment in August. The largest employment increases was in Prince Edward Island (+2.1%) and nationally employment was up 1.4 per cent.

Compared to February 2020, the labour force remains lower in all provinces, except Quebec (+0.1%) and British Columbia(+0.0%). The largest decline in the labour force since February 2020 has been in Newfoundland and Labrador (-3.5%). The largest employment decline since February is in Alberta (-7.0%) and the United States (-7.6%). The smallest employment decline since February 2020 is in New Brunswick (-3.6%).

Unemployment rates declined in August 2020 in all the provinces and the United States. The highest unemployment rate for August 2020 is in Newfoundland and Labrador at 13.1 per cent and the lowest is in Saskatchewan at 7.9 per cent. Canada’s unemployment rate was 10.2 per cent in August 2020.

National Comparisons: Cities (Monthly, 3 month moving average)

The unemployment rate for Halifax Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) in August 2020 was 10.1 per cent (seasonally adjusted 3 month moving average). Saguenay and Quebec city at 6.3 per cent had the lowest unemployment rate among CMAs while the highest was in Calgary (14.4 per cent).

The seasonally adjusted employment rate for Halifax was 61.0 per cent, up 2.0 percentage points compared to last month. Peterborough, Ontario (47.1 per cent) had the lowest employment rate, while Barrie, Ontario (67.6 per cent) had the highest.

Halifax’s employment (3 month moving average) for August 2020 was up 3.5 percent compared to the July 2020 result. The employment level (Jun-Jul average compared to May-Jul average) was up in all CMAs this month except Kelowna (-0.3%) with the largest increase in St. Catharines-Niagara (4.7%).





Note: Seasonally adjusted, 3 month average.



 Statistics Canada.  Table  14-10-0287-01   Labour force characteristics, monthly, seasonally adjusted and trend-cycle, last 5 months

Statistics Canada.  Table  14-10-0294-01   Labour force characteristics by census metropolitan area, three-month moving average, seasonally adjusted and unadjusted, last 5 months

Statistics Canada.  Table  14-10-0293-01   Labour force characteristics by economic region, three-month moving average, unadjusted for seasonality, last 5 months

Statistics Canada.  Table  14-10-0355-01   Employment by industry, monthly, seasonally adjusted and unadjusted, and trend-cycle, last 5 months (x 1,000)

Statistics Canada.  Table  14-10-0288-01   Employment by class of worker, monthly, seasonally adjusted and unadjusted, last 5 months (x 1,000)

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