Nova Scotia Labour Market Information: September 2020 – Digital Nova Scotia – Leading Digital Industry
Nova Scotia Labour Market Information: September 2020

An Update from Service Canada

Employment in Nova Scotia increased by 8.3% in the third quarter (Q3 2020), representing a two-thirds recovery from the sweeping layoffs that occurred during Q2 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Part-time workers accounted for a huge share of the employment rebound: despite making up less than one-fifth of total employment, part-time positions accounted for more than half of the job gains this quarter. The unemployment rate declined to 9.6% from 12.9% in Q2 but remains well above levels observed prior to the pandemic.

The incomplete status of the recovery has resulted in a deterioration of most labour market indicators on a year- over-year basis. Since Q3 2019, the level of employment has gone down by 4.1%, with a more severe rate of decline among full-time workers. In contrast, part-time employment has returned to pre-pandemic levels. The shift toward more part-time positions may reflect attempts by employers to remain solvent while contending with reduced revenue.

The unemployment rate rose by 2.1 percentage points over the past year. Like employment, the number of individuals in the labour force has not fully rebounded from the contraction in Q2. This caused the participation rate to decline on an annual basis and served to lessen the increase of the unemployment rate.

Over the course of the pandemic, most employment changes have occurred in the private sector. During Q2 2020, this sector shed 51,000 workers before regaining 28,000 jobs in Q3. The number of self-employed workers also dipped during Q2, albeit to a much more limited extent. In comparison, public sector employment went up by 5% year-over-year as the provision of healthcare, education, and bureaucratic government functions continued throughout the pandemic.

The average of monthly employment levels during the third quarter of 2020 point to an uneven but encouraging recovery path. Following a large initial resurgence in June, employment gains in July and August were comparatively modest and comprised entirely of part-time work. In September, however, the employment level surged by 12,000—more than the previous two months combined—of which approximately two-thirds was full- time.

Of the major age groups, youth (15 to 24 years of age) have been the most severely affected by COVID-19 with a year-over-year employment decline of 11.0%. Youth tend to be overrepresented in industries such as retail trade and food services which were affected disproportionately by restrictions imposed during the spring. While 16,200 youth were laid off in Q2, gains in Q3 amounted to just half of that. On a more positive note, monthly data indicates that youth were major beneficiaries of the large employment increase in September.

Compared to Q3 2019, prime working-age employment (25 to 54 years of age) was down by just 2.1%, having experienced a smaller decline and a faster rebound than the other two age groups. Prime working-age employees make up a large share of workers in industries which were less severely impacted by COVID-19 related regulations.

Older workers (aged 55 years and older) have experienced employment outcomes which were somewhat worse than their prime working-age counterparts. Year-over-year, employment for this group went down by 5.3%. As with youth, job gains among older workers in Q3 were roughly equivalent to half of the jobs shed during Q2.

By sex, females have been more affected by COVID-19 related layoffs, with an overall annual employment decrease of 5.1%, compared to 3.2% among males. This discrepancy was observed in all age groups for overall employment and in most combinations of age group and part-time / full-time status.

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Regional Information

In Cape Breton, changes over the past year have mirrored the province as a whole. Employment went down by 2,100 (-4.2%) since Q3 2019, all of which were full-time jobs. The labour force contracted to a lesser degree, which caused both the participation rate to fall and the unemployment rate to rise. Accommodation and food services was among several industries which experienced a decline in employment; while the creation of the Atlantic bubble provided a moderate influx of visitors, many tourism operators reported a poor summer season.

Among economic regions, the North Shore experienced the second-largest decline in employment in the province over the past year, shedding 6,700 jobs (-9.6%) of which most were full-time. Nearly as many individuals exited the labour force altogether, causing the participation rate to decline to the lowest level in Nova Scotia. In addition to the effects of COVID-19, the closure of the Northern Pulp mill contributed to layoffs since Q3 2019. The closure was expected to have a major secondary impact on the forestry, wood product manufacturing, and truck transportation industries. However, current high lumber prices have reduced this shock and supported harvesting levels comparable to when the mill was operational.

The Annapolis Valley shed 7,000 workers over the past year, the largest decrease in the province. As in the other regions, the job losses were mostly among full-time positions and increased the unemployment rate from 6.8% to 9.4%. Many of the layoffs occured in the retail trade and construction industries while the largest employment increase during the same period occurred in the manufacturing industry. The agriculture industry experienced challenges with irrigation due to hot, dry weather this summer which compromised crops such as blueberries and hay for lifestock. However, vineyards are expected to benefit from the conditions which were favourable for grape vines.

The Southern region was the sole part of the province to report a small employment increase since Q3 2019. The overall increase was the net result of fewer full-time positions and more part-time work. Despite the gains in employment, the unemployment rate rose as 1,800 workers entered the labour force. At 54.8%, the participation rate was comparable to those of the three other predominately rural economic regions. Large declines occurred in information, culture and recreation and accommodation and food services in this region, which has a large seasonal tourism industry that has been impacted by the decline in travellers to the province.

The loss of employment in Halifax was not as severe as in much of the rest of the province, but also exhibited the shift toward part-time work observed elsewhere. Despite the smaller scale of layoffs, the unemployment rate jumped from 5.9% to 8.6%, boosted by an increase in the number of jobseekers in the labour force. The capital city also recorded a surprising 2.3% increase in the working age population, driven largely by interprovincial migration. While accommodation and food services and wholesale and retail trade in Halifax have experienced
the same major layoffs as in other regions, there was a large increase in the number of workers in educational services and professional, scientific, and technical services.

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Prepared by: Labour Market Analysis Directorate, Service Canada, Atlantic Region
For further information: please contact the LMI team
For information on the Labour Force Survey: please visit the Statistics Canada Website