Halifax Index 2020


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Record-Breaking Population Growth Once Again

Halifax was the third-fastest growing Canadian city in 2019. We gained nearly 10,000 new residents and broke our own population growth record for the fourth year in a row.

Immigration continued to drive population growth in Halifax, with the bulk of newcomers being young families and early-career professionals.

Total enrolment at Halifax’s universities increased for the first time in 5 years. International students led this growth, supported by the first increase in Nova Scotian student enrolment in the last 9 years.

COVID-19 Impacts

Given that 83% of Halifax’s population growth in 2019 came from outside of Nova Scotia, population growth in 2020 may be impacted significantly as countries around the world and provinces within Canada limit cross-border movement to contain the spread of COVID-19. With many businesses focused on recovery for the near term, new job opportunities that would have attracted newcomers may be sparse. Prospective newcomers, whether from Canada or beyond, also may have fewer resources as a result of dealing with the pandemic and, thus, be less able to travel. Migration patterns beyond 2020 will depend on the speed with which COVID-19 is brought under control both here and in areas that are potential sources of newcomers.

Universities are faced with much uncertainty as they rethink class offerings and the delivery of courses and retool campus designs to protect students and staff. International and out-of-province enrolment may be limited due to restrictions on border travel.

Halifax Index 2020

For the fourth straight year, Halifax experienced record-breaking population growth. Our city added 9,747 new residents in 2019 – the largest annual increase on record in both absolute and percentage terms. This 2.3% growth brings the total population of Halifax to 440,348 as of June 30, 2019. If this rate continued, we would be on track to reach our 550,000 population goal by 2031.

Year after year, Halifax successfully attracts more young, talented, and diverse newcomers to the city: two-thirds of our growth in 2019 came from international migration and close to half (46%) of all new residents were between ages 25-39.

Despite the addition of so many young people, Halifax’s dependency ratio continues to rise as the share of the population that is typically not working grows faster than the share that is typically working.1As the bulk of the baby boom population of Halifax reaches retirement age in the next 5-10 years, a much smaller share of the population will be required to shoulder the provincial tax burden.

Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0135-01

Population Growth

  • With a growth rate of 2.3%, Halifax was the third-fastest growing among all Canadian cities in 2019, behind Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (2.8%) and London (2.3%).
  • Only 8% of the population increase in 2019 was from net natural growth (births minus deaths).
  • The population of Halifax is 440,348 (as of June, 30, 2019).

Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0135-01

Population Growth by City

  • Halifax’s population growth was second highest among benchmark cities for both the pace of growth and the absolute number of new residents. Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (KCW) experienced the highest growth rate of all Canadian cities in 2019.
  • Population growth was strong across the nation. Statistics Canada recorded the largest ever absolute annual increase in Canada’s population in 2019. The percentage growth rate was higher than all other G7 nations.

Population by Age Group

Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographics Estimates, Tables 17-10-0135-01 and 17-10-0078-01


  • In 2001, the baby boom population made up the largest age group in Halifax by a clear margin (the widest bands in the 2001 chart). Since then, immigration and improved youth retention rates have had a noticeable impact on the age demographics of the city.
  • In 2019, the largest age groups were those between 25-34 (the widest bands in the 2019 chart). Most of the baby boom population will be reaching retirement age within the next 5-10 years.
  • Halifax’s dependency ratio was 41.9% in 2001. It has since risen to 45.7%.

Halifax Index 2020

Immigration continues to be the main driver of population growth in Halifax. Two-thirds of the net new residents welcomed in 2019 came from outside of Canada (6,509 people), 16% from elsewhere in Canada, 9% from elsewhere in Nova Scotia, and 8% from net natural growth within Halifax (births minus deaths).

Since 2006-07, these growth figures represent record highs for the number of people arriving in Halifax from outside of the province. Additionally, the number of people moving to Halifax from within Nova Scotia is at a record low, meaning fewer Nova Scotians are migrating to the capital. Many regions throughout the province – including Kentville, Truro, and Cape Breton – are growing.

Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0136-01

Population Growth by Source

  • Halifax gained 6,509 net new international immigrants in 2019, a 20% increase over 2018 and the largest annual figure on record.
  • 1,590 people moved to Halifax from elsewhere in Canada, representing the largest annual interprovincial migration on record.
  • 883 Nova Scotians moved to Halifax from elsewhere in the province, the lowest on record.
  • 4,033 children were born in Halifax between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019, while 3,268 people passed away. This results in a net natural population growth of 765 people, the smallest of the 4 population growth components.

Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0136-01

Components of Population Growth

  • Among benchmark cities, Halifax gained the second most international and interprovincial migrants. Both Halifax and Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo experienced strong population growth in 2019.
  • Halifax and Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo were the only benchmark cities with positive growth in all 4 categories (natural, intraprovincial, interprovincial, and international).

Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0136-01

Migration by Age

  • Sorting migration into age groups, young families and youth count for the largest share of newcomers to the city. Half of the net new international migrants who arrived in 2019 were under 21 and only one-sixth (16.8%) of them were older than 35.
  • Of the 1,590 Canadians who moved to Halifax from another province in 2019, half were under 30 years old.

Halifax Index 2020
Post Secondary Enrolment

Enrolment at Halifax’s universities increased by 384 students (1.3%) in 2018-19, reaching a total of 30,487 students across six institutions.2This is the first increase in the number of students enrolled since 2013-14.

For the 11th year in a row, international students led enrolment growth. An additional 340 international students enrolled in Halifax’s universities over last year, representing 5.2% growth.

Enrolment in mathematics, computer sciences, and information sciences at Halifax universities is growing faster than any other field in both absolute and relative terms. An additional 303 mathematics, computer sciences, and information sciences students were enrolled in 2018-19 over 2017-18, a 20% increase.

At the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), enrolment grew by 3% at its three metro campuses (Akerley, Ivany, and the Institute of Technology), reaching 4,603 students in fall 2019. NSCC added 112 international students to its metro campuses in 2019, contributing to 23% growth in international enrolment at its metro campuses.

Source: Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, Enrolment Data

University Enrolment by Origin

  • Nova Scotian student enrolment at Halifax universities increased by 270 students following 8 straight years of decreasing enrolment.
  • Enrolment of Canadian students from outside Nova Scotia decreased for the fifth year in a row.

Source: Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, Enrolment Data

University Enrolment by Field of Study

  • 19.4% of students enrolled at Halifax universities are graduate students – the highest share of graduate students on record. This share has grown by 1.6 percentage points over the last 3 years as graduate enrolment grew and undergraduate enrolment declined.

Source: Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, Enrolment Data

University Enrolment in Mathematics, Computer, and Information Sciences

  • Mathematics, computer sciences, and information sciences enrolment averaged a 10.2% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the last decade.
  • Enrolment in health and related fields has shown steady positive enrolment growth over the last 15 years.
  • 2018-19 marks the fifth year of declining business, management, and public administration enrolment.


Halifax was in a good position heading into the COVID-19 crisis. Our city experienced uncharacteristically large increases in employment, the participation rate, and the overall size of the labour pool through 2019, especially among youth. 



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