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For additional information relating to this article, please contact:

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

January 14, 2021

Statistics Canada has released estimates of the population by county as of July 1, 2020.  Provincial population estimates for July 1, 2020 were released on September 29, 2020 and updated to October 1, 2020 on December 17, 2020.  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 based on the results of the 2016 Census of the population and data back to 2006 have been revised.

In Nova Scotia, 10 of the 18 counties had population growth from July 1, 2019 to July 1, 2020.  Halifax had the fastest growth at 2.0%, followed by Antigonish at 1.2% and Queens at 0.6%.  There was also population growth in Yarmouth, Annapolis, Lunenburg, Kings, Hants, Colchester, and Pictou counties.  Population decline was the fastest in Victoria (-0.7%), followed By Shelburne, Cape Breton, Inverness, Guysborough, Richmond, Cumberland, and Digby.

Halifax's population has risen to 448,518 or 45.8% of the provincial population.  Cape Breton county's population was 100,708 as of July 1st 2020 and had 10.3% of the provincial population.  The other three counties on Cape Breton Island (Inverness, Richmond and Victoria) accounted for 3.4% of the provincial population (33,383).  Counties in the North Shore economic region (Colchester, Cumberland, Pictou, Guysborough, and Antigonish) had a population of 153,791 or 15.7% of the provincial total.  Counties in the Annapolis Valley (Annapolis, Kings and Hants) had 128,109 residents or 13.1% of Nova Scotia's population.  The counties of Southern Nova Scotia (Shelburne, Yarmouth, Digby, Queens and Lunenburg) had a population of 114,842 or 11.7% of the provincial total.

Following four years of accelerated population growth, Nova Scotia’s population growth slowed down to 1.0% in 2020. Much of the growth in 2020 has been attributable to ongoing increases in the population of Halifax, Kings, Hants, Lunenburg, and Antigonish. While population has rebounded in Yarmouth, Cape Breton registered a decline in its population in 2020. The pace of population decline has slowed in Shelbourne, Cumberland, Guysborough, Richmond, and Victoria counties.

Note: scales for all counties are set to 7,000 except Cape Breton (21,000) and Halifax (140,000).


Components of county 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). 

All counties except Halifax reported more deaths than births between July 1, 2019 and July 1, 2020. The natural population decline was largest in Cape Breton (-549) and smallest in Hants county (-3). Halifax had a natural increase of 793.

Immigration has contributed to the recent acceleration of Nova Scotia's population growth.  Immigration was concentrated in Halifax with 5,142 immigrants added to the population.  The next highest numbers of immigrants added were in Kings and Cape Breton counties.

Net change in the number of non-permanent residents were concentrated in Halifax (+875) and Cape Breton (+433).

Overall international migration (including immigration, net non-permanent residents, less emigration) contributed to population growth in every county except Shelburne.  International migration was concentrated in Halifax (+5,755) and Cape Breton (+619), though Kings, Antigonish and Colchester counties also had large contributions to population growth from international sources.

Interprovincial migration was also concentrated in Halifax with a net gain of 1,584 persons from other provinces. All counties reported positive interprovincial migration in the last year.

Net movements within the province have contributed to population increases in Halifax, Colchester, Antigonish, and Richmond counties.  All other counties had net negative migration with the rest of the province. 

Age cohorts

Looking at the distribution of population across age groups and sexes, Nova Scotia’s population is concentrated in the 50 to 70-year-old age cohort. The distribution is similar between males and females.

Halifax has a higher share of population between the ages of 20 to 40 compared to Nova Scotia among both males and females. The share of population aged 50 and higher is lower compared to the provincial average.

The counties of Yarmouth, Kings, Hants, and Colchester have population distribution similar to the provincial average.

Compared to the provincial average, a higher share of population in the 50 to 70 year old cohort was living in the Shelbourne, Digby, Queens, Annapolis, Lunenburg, Cumberland, Pictou, Guysborough, Inverness, Richmond, Cape Breton, and Victoria counties. The share of population between 20 to 40-year-old cohort was lower than the provincial average in these counties.

Nova Scotia's median age stayed the same at 45.0 years between July 1, 2019 and July 1, 2020. The median age was up in all counties, except Halifax and Antigonish, over the last year. Halifax has the lowest median age at 39.9 years while the highest median age was observed in Guysborough county at 57.8 years.


Population growth was faster in urban areas from July 1, 2019 to July 1, 2020.  Halifax's population growth of 2.1% was the fastest along with Oshawa, Ontario among Canada’s other Census Metropolitan Areas (CMA).  

Census Subdivisions

With release of July 1, 2019 population estimates, Statistics Canada has now made population estimates available for Census Subdivisions as well as Census Divisions (counties).  Census subdivisions are towns, municipal districts, regional municipalities, Indian reserves and rural areas (identified as Subdivisions A, B, C, or D in their counties).  A map of Nova Scotia's census subdivisions can be found here: Standard Geographical Classification, census division – census subdivision maps, Nova Scotia (PDF version, 4369.7 KB)

Note: all county scales are set to a range of 7,000 (except Halifax and Cape Breton).  All census subdivision scales are set to a range of 1,500 (except Halifax Regional Municipality and Cape Breton Regional Municipality).


Sources: Statistics Canada.  Table  17-10-0135-01   Population estimates, July 1, by census metropolitan area and census agglomeration, 2016 boundariesTable  17-10-0139-01   Population estimates, July 1, by census division, 2016 boundariesTable  17-10-0140-01   Components of population change by census division, 2016 boundariesTable  17-10-0142-01   Population estimates, July 1, by census subdivision, 2016 boundariesStandard Geographical Classification, census division – census subdivision maps, Nova Scotia (PDF version, 4369.7 KB)

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