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Thomas StorringDirector – Economics and Statistics
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July 26, 2021

Statistics Canada released updated data on monthly business openings and closures for April 2021.  A business will be classified as open if it had no employment in the previous month and then has employment in the next month and a business will be closed if it had employment in the previous month and no employment in the current month. For opening and closing, the reason could be a permanent change (i.e. business exit) or temporary for reasons such as seasonal operations, capital maintenance, restructuring or the COVID-19 situation. Continuing business are those that had employment in both the current and previous month. Active businesses are the sum of continuing and opening business in the current month.

Public health measures are tightened or eased across provinces depending on their respective COVID outbreaks.  At the outset of the pandemic in March 2020, the number of active businesses declined sharply until May.  The decline in active businesses in Nova Scotia was sharper than the national average, but less than in Ontario.  Since May 2020, there has been a recovery in the number of active businesses across all provinces.  As new restrictions are imposed across some provinces, this recovery has been slowed or even partially reversed.

The number of active businesses in Nova Scotia increased 0.3% from March to April 2021. Nationally, active businesses increased 0.9%. The number of active businesses were down in Newfoundland and Labrador (-0.2%), New Brunswick (-0.1%), Ontario (-0.3%) and Saskatchewean (-0.04%). Five provinces reported increases in active business, as British Columbia (+0.4%) and Prince Edward Island (+0.3%) posted the largest increases.

Compared with February 2020, the number of active businesses was down 0.3% for Nova Scotia in April 2021. Nationally, active businesses are lower by 0.1% from February 2020 to April 2021. The number of active businesses was down in eight provinces compared to February 2020, with the exception of British Columbia (+2.2%) and Prince Edward Island (+1.8%).  The largest declines were experienced in Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario and Alberta.

The number of active businesses in Halifax was up 1.9% from February 2020 to April 2021.  This suggests that the decline in active businesses across Nova Scotia was concentrated outside the city.  Among cities (Census Metropolitan Areas), the declines in active businesses from February 2020 to April 2021 were most severe in St. John's, Thunder Bay, Toronto and St. Catharines - Niagara. The two cities with the largest rises in the number of active businesses were Abbotsford-Mission and Vancouver.

The calculation for the opening, continuing and closure rate have been made based on the number of active business in the previous month. The rate at which business either opened, continued or closed can be examined to see how number of active business has changed.

Most businesses continue operating each month.  At the height of COVID-19 related restrictions, the share of businesses that continued to operate from one month to the next fell to 89.3% in Nova Scotia, down from 96.0% in February 2020.  National continuing rates fell from 96.6% in February to 89.1% in April 2020.

Business continuing rates rose sharply across all provinces through the summer of 2020.  Since then, Nova Scotia's business continuing rates have stabilized around pre-pandemic levels, including 95.9% in April 2021.  National business continuing rates have declined since the beginning of 2021 and stood at 95.3% in April 2021.

Nova Scotia’s business opening rate declined slightly from 4.0% in February 2020 to 3.8% in April 2020. By June, the Nova Scotia business opening rate increased to 7.9% as the economy re-opened and restrictions were lifted. Since last summer, Nova Scotia's business opening rate declined back to be closer to pre-pandemic levels, falling to 4.3% in April 2021. Nationally, the opening rate actually increased in March and April of 2020, and then accelerated in June.  Since then, the national business opening rate declined, falling to 4.9% as of April 2021.

The rate of business closures in Nova Scotia was 3.8% in February 2020. This increased to 12.9% in April 2020 and has subsequently fallen back to pre-pandemic levels. The business closing rate in Nova Scotia was 4.3% in April 2021. Nationally, the business closing rate increased from 4.4% in February 2020 to 12.6% in April of that year. In April 2021, the national business closing rate was 4.6%.

The COVID-19 situation has impacted business sector industries to different degrees. The number of active business in Nova Scotia remained lower in many industries for April 2021 when compared to February 2020.  Nova Scotia's largest declines were observed in mining/oil/gas (-11.7%), forestry and fishing (-4.4%) and wholesale trade (-2.7%). Some industries are starting to see increases in active businesses compared to February 2020 with the strongest increases in professional/technical services, finance/insurance, utilities and manufacturing.

Nationally, the number of active businesses was down for most industries, with a notably steeper decline in arts/entertainment/recreation, accommodation/food services, and personal/repair services.

Statistics Canada has broken out specific data for tourism-related industries.  This shows that the number of active tourism-related businesses was down 1.4% in Nova Scotia from February 2020 to April 2021.  Transportation and travel services have reported the largest declines among Nova Scotia tourism businesses.  Nationally the decline was 7.4%.  Nova Scotia's declines in active tourism businesses have been smaller than the national average for all tourism related industries. 

All industries in Nova Scotia that reported declines in active businesses during first-wave of the pandemic have seen partial or complete recovery since first wave restrictions were lifted in June 2020.

The source data is seasonally adjusted. The data may not aggregate due to firms being classified into multiple industry or geography.

Source: Statistics Canada. Table 33-10-0270-01 Experimental estimates for business openings and closures for Canada, provinces and territories, census metropolitan areasMethodology: Business Opening and Closing