Halifax Index 2022


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You are viewing the 2022 Halifax Index.

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With strong labour force growth (+9,600 people), employment above pre-pandemic levels (+11,900 jobs), and the unemployment rate declining to 7.5% after spiking to 8.6% in 2020, Halifax’s labour market has recovered. Service industries including professional, scientific, and technical services (+45.5%), transportation and warehousing (+34.2%), and construction (+14.1%) saw the largest growth in employment.

One reason behind this fast recovery may be the way Halifax quickly adapted to remote work. It appears that the move to remote work will persist beyond COVID-19, as our 2022 Business Confidence Survey results show that 67.9% of Halifax employees believe it is crucial that employers offer remote work opportunities, and 67.1% of businesses intend to continue offering remote work opportunities.

With COVID-induced job losses generally behind us, labour shortages are now the more pressing issue. Job vacancies have been trending upwards and were at their highest point ever (10,430 vacancies) in Q4 2021. Difficulties in finding workers and rapid increases in the cost of living may put upward pressure on wages to an extent not seen in many years.

Halifax Index 2022
Labour Force

Halifax’s labour force grew by 9,600 people in 2021, up 3.9% over 2020, to reach 258,600. This is the largest labour force recorded – both in absolute numbers and percentage growth – since 2001 when data began being collected. This is welcome news given concerns about an aging population and increasing labour shortages.

Looking back over the past 15 years, the share of the labour force made up of those age 55 and older has risen sharply, from 12.1% in 2006 to 19.8% in 2021. In particular, the share of those 65 and older almost tripled, going from 1.3% to 3.8% over the same period. However, if age 45 is used as a breakpoint, since 2017, the share of younger workers has steadily increased from 57.7% to 60.8% while the share of older workers has dropped from 42.3% to 39.2%.

The labour force participation rate in 2021 was almost back to pre-pandemic levels at 68.0%, just 0.1 percentage point lower than in 2019 and up 1.3 percentage points from the 66.7% figure recorded in 2020 when the pandemic had its greatest impact on the labour market.

The female participation rate climbed 1.4 points and the male rate climbed 0.9 points over the 2020 lows to reach 65.0% and 71.1%, respectively. The gap between the male and female participation rates has narrowed by approximately 3 points since 2006. After a severe 8.2 percentage point decline in the participation rate for those ages 15 to 24 years in 2020, the rate for youth jumped back up 4.4 percentage points to reach 69.6%. The participation rate for those age 65 years and older fell to its lowest level since 2015 at 13.1%. The number of people 65 and older who were employed part-time remained consistent, but the number of full-time workers fell 10.3% from 2020.

Halifax’s 2021 unemployment rate dropped to 7.5%, 1.2 points down from the 2020 spike of 8.7%. After a record-setting female unemployment rate of 8.6% in 2020, it receded to 7.0% in 2021. The 2021 male unemployment rate sat at 7.8%.

Source: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, Table 14-10-0385-01

Labour Force Participation Rate

  • After falling to 66.7% in 2020, Halifax’s labour force participation rate climbed 1.3 percentage points in 2021.
  • Halifax had the third-highest participation rate across all benchmark cities, behind only KWC and Regina at 68.7% and 68.6%, respectively.
  • The participation rate of 15- to 24-year-olds climbed once again after a steep decline in 2020.


Source: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, Table 14-10-0385-01

Unemployment Rate by Age Group

  • After hitting a record-high of 8.7% in 2020, the unemployment rate in Halifax dropped 1.2 percentage points in 2021 - still the third-highest rate on record.
  • Across benchmark cities, Halifax had the second-highest unemployment rate, trailing St. John’s at 7.8%.
  • Youth unemployment (those ages 15 to 24 years) was the highest in Regina (15.6%), followed by KCW (14.6%). Halifax is third on the list at 13.9%.


Source: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, Table 14-10-0385-01

Unemployment Rate by Sex

  • At 7.8%, Halifax had the third-highest male unemployment rate across benchmark cities in 2021. Although high, the rate has fallen 1 percentage point from the high of 8.8% in 2020.
  • At 7.0%, Halifax had the second-highest female unemployment rate across benchmark cities, behind KCW at 7.4%. The rate was 1.6 percentage points below the high of 8.6% in 2020.
  • The lowest unemployment rates for both males and females in 2021 were in Quebec City at 3.9% and 4.5%, respectively.


Halifax Index 2022

Halifax added 11,900 new jobs in 2021, bringing the total number of employed individuals to 239,300. Of those employed, 85.8% (205,200) were in the services-producing sector and 14.2% (34,100) were in the goods-producing sector. Total employment in Halifax was up 5.2% in 2021, the second-largest increase across benchmark cities. Halifax was also one of only two benchmark cities that experienced an annual positive change in both the goods-producing (+10.0%) and services-producing (+4.5%) sectors.

The construction industry moved up one position to become the fifth-largest industry (18,700 jobs) in Halifax. Employment growth in the construction industry is welcome news as the city attempts to address housing-supply concerns. Wholesale and retail trade remained the largest industry (36,500 jobs). Industries that are largely in the public sector – health care and social assistance, educational services, and public administration – ranked second, fourth, and sixth, respectively, and collectively accounted for 30.2% of Halifax’s total employment in 2021.

Over the past decade, professional, scientific, and technical services had the largest growth (+59.9%) followed by the construction industry (+33.6%).

The largest declines were observed in “other service” (except public administration) and information, culture, and recreation, which fell by 29.8% and 24.1%, respectively. The accommodation and food services industry, one of the industries most adversely affected by COVID-19, showed a 10-year decline of 8.1%; however, the entirety of this decline was experienced in the last two years alone. There are signs of a turn-around in the industry with 0.7% growth between 2020 and 2021.

With most COVID-related job losses now regained, labour shortages are again a growing issue. Between Q1 2020 and Q4 2021, job vacancies specifically in the sales and services occupations jumped by 60.8% (+1,395 positions). Across all occupations, vacancies increased by 4,400 positions over the same period.

The most common occupational code for Halifax workers in 2021 was computer and information systems professionals. This reflects both Halifax’s burgeoning tech sector and the general trend across all industries to integrate more technology into production and sales processes. Other common occupations were in the retail sector and health care workers.

Source: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, Table 14-10-0384-01

Employment Change By Sector

  • Halifax was one of only two benchmark cities that saw growth in both the goods-producing and the services-producing sectors.
  • The 10.0% growth in the goods-producing sector was the second largest among all benchmark cities, behind only Quebec City’s 13.2%.
  • 85.8% of total employment in Halifax was in the services-producing sector while the goods-producing sector represented 14.2%.
  • There were 72,200 people (30.2% of total employed) working in industries that are largely in the public sector. In fact, all benchmark cities except for KCW, as capitals of their respective provinces, had a public sector employment share of more than 30%. KCW’s share was 24.8%.


Source: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, Table 14-10-0384-01

Employment by Industry

  • The 3 industries with the largest number of employees were, in ascending order, wholesale and retail trade, health care and social assistance, and professional, scientific, and technical services, with annual growth of 5.5%, 4.6%, and 19.5%, respectively.
  • Accommodation and food services, the most adversely affected service-producing industry in 2020, saw growth of 14,700 employees (+0.7%) in 2021.
  • In the goods-producing sector, the forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil, and gas industry saw another year of decline (-15.8%), dropping to 1,600 employees. It was the only decline observed across industries in this sector.


Data for agriculture are suppressed.
Source: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, Table 14-10-0384-01

10-Year Change in Employment by Industry

  • Professional, scientific, and technical services had by far the largest growth of any industry over the last decade with an increase of 9,400 employees (+59.9%).
  • Employment in the accommodation and food services industry grew by 18.1% from 2012 to 2019, collapsed by 22.8% in 2020 as COVID-19 arrived, and then rebounded slightly in 2021 by 0.7%. Over the entirety of the past decade, the industry has shrunk by 8.1%.
  • One of the worst-hit industries of 2020, wholesale and retail trade, bounced back with a growth of 5.5% in 2021. Since 2012, this industry has grown by 10.6%.


Source: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, Table 14-10-0379-01

24-Month Change in Employment by Industry

  • Since January 2020, the accommodation and food services industry suffered the largest employment loss (-3,700), followed by information, culture, and recreation (-1,800). This is not surprising given the collapse in global tourism and the many public health restrictions placed on restaurants, theatres, museums, and sports and recreation facilities over the past 2 years.
  • The natural resource sector and business, building, and other support services, which includes management and administrative services companies, also both lost jobs over the course of the pandemic, although it is less clear how much of an impact the pandemic had on these declines.
  • Employment growth since the arrival of COVID-19 has been led by professional, scientific, and technical services (+45.5%) and transportation and warehousing (+34.2%). Pandemic-specific drivers such as hiring of staff for COVID-testing and contact tracing and a surge in e-commerce-related warehousing and delivery positions may explain some of these increases.


Source: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, Table 14-10-0389-01 via The Community Data Program

Largest Changes in Occupations

  • Computer and information systems professionals had the largest growth (+4,100) in employment over the last decade and is the top NOC category in Halifax with 7,900 professionals.
  • Retail sales supervisors (4,400 employees) grew by 1,500 positions since 2012. Retail salespersons (at 7,400 employees) and cashiers (5,600 employees) represent the 2nd and 6th most common occupations in Halifax, respectively. Despite the large size of the industry, salespersons and cashiers each grew by only 700 positions since 2012, which does not put them in the top 10 occupations in terms of growth.
  • The occupational category that grew the most over the last decade is policy and program researchers, consultants, and officers (+4,100 employees) making it the second-most common occupation by NOC category with 6,000 professionals.


Halifax Index 2022
Business Hiring

Halifax’s job vacancy rate climbed to record highs through the second half of 2021, hitting 4.7% in the fourth quarter. The city added roughly 1,000 new jobs in every quarter of 2021. The total number of job vacancies at the end of the year was 10,430 – the highest since recordkeeping began in 2015 and a 53.8% increase over 2020.

The growing number of job vacancies is not simply a function of too few workers being available. Difficulties in filling vacant positions also may be due to skill mismatches, where the skills required by businesses do not meet the skills of job-seeking individuals, and lingering pandemic-induced hesitancy for workers to get back into certain industries where in-person contact is necessary (35.4% of all job vacancies in Q4 2021 were in sales and service occupations). The Partnership’s most recent annual business survey revealed that 29.2% of businesses experienced “a great deal of difficulty” in filling vacant positions in 2022, and 33.1% experienced “some difficulty.” Although high, the share of businesses who faced difficulties in 2022 was 2.8 percentage points lower than in 2021.

Despite widespread reports of the “the great resignation,” there is some evidence that employee retention remains strong in Halifax.

In the Partnership’s business survey, the share of respondents citing a “zero-percent” annual turnover rate increased 17.2 percentage points since 2019, up to 50.2%. The share of surveyed businesses reporting a turnover rate of “more than one percent, up to five percent” decreased 5.5 percentage points over the same period to reach 11.5%. However, the share of businesses reporting a turnover rate of “twenty-five percent or more” increased to 12.5%, up from 11.0% in 2019.

Although today’s younger workers may place more of a premium on workplace culture over wages, compensation may become increasingly important to employee retention given the speed with which the cost of living is increasing. Among surveyed Halifax businesses, 33.2% increased employee salaries by 5% or more in 2021, and 34.6% expect similar increases in 2022. On the other hand, 5.2% of businesses decreased salaries by 5% or more in 2021. 34.1% of businesses reported salaries remaining unchanged in 2021, and 30.1% expect the same over 2022.

Data are unavailable for Q2 and Q3 2020.

Source: Statistics Canada, Job Vacancy and Wage Survey, Table 14-10-0325-01

Job Vacancy Rate

  • Job vacancies in Halifax grew by 63.9% (+ 4,065) from Q1 to Q4 of 2021, taking the vacancy rate to an all-time high of 4.7%.
  • After the vacancy rate reached a pre-pandemic high of 3.6% in Q3 2019, it declined through Q1 2020. Due to the pandemic, data were not captured for Q2 and Q3 of 2020. When data again became available in Q4 2020, the job vacancy rate stood at 3.3%. After a dip to 3.1% in Q1 2021, it has seen a steady increase.


Source: Narrative Research, Business Confidence Survey (Various)

Difficulties Filling Job Vacancies in the Past Two Years

  • 62.2% of Halifax businesses that responded to the 2022 Business Confidence survey said they faced difficulties in filling job vacancies over the last 2 years. 29.2% faced “a great deal of difficulty,” and 33.1% faced “some difficulty.” Although high, the number is lower than 2019, when 65.0% of businesses faced difficulties.
  • 34.9% of businesses in 2022 stated they faced little to no difficulties in filling vacancies. This is 13.4 percentage points lower than the 48.3% figure in 2021.


Question: "Thinking of your company's total full-time equivalent number of employees in the Halifax area last year, what would you say was your staff turnover rate for [the previous year]?"

Source: Narrative Research, Business Confidence Survey (Various)

Employee Turnover Rate

  • Since this question was first posed in 2020, the largest share of businesses with a 0 percent turnover rate experienced in the previous year occurred in 2022, at 50.2%.
  • At 7.0%, the share of respondents reporting staff turnover greater than 10% to 25% decreased 5 percentage points since 2020. However, 12.5% of surveyed businesses reported a turnover rate higher than 25%, an increase of 1.5% since 2020.


Question: “Compared to this time last year, have employee salaries at your company…”

Question: “Over the next 12 months, by how much do you expect employee salaries at your company to change?”

Source: Narrative Research, Business Confidence Survey (2022)

Change in Current and Expected Employee Salaries

  • 58.5% of businesses increased employee salaries during 2021, and 64.8% expect employee salaries to increase in 2022.
  • The share of businesses reporting 2021 salary increases of 5% or more was 33.2%; 34.6% of respondents expect increases of this magnitude in 2022.
  • 34.1% of businesses did not augment their employee salaries last year, and 30.1% do not intend to do so this year.


Halifax Index 2022
Remote Work

Remote work has never been more in the spotlight than during the pandemic. Beyond reducing the spread of the virus, remote work has been advantageous for some in terms of increased flexibility and productivity, reduced costs and time for commuting, and lower levels of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. That said, a shift to working from home has potentially profound implications for businesses and workers in sectors like corporate real estate; transportation, office maintenance and cleaning; and restaurants, cafes, and bars.

Halifax Partnership’s City Matters Survey 2022, carried out by MQO Research, asked respondents if their employer provided opportunities to work remotely in the last 2 years. 60.5% of employed respondents replied “yes,” 25.2% replied “no,” and 14.0% said remote work was “not applicable” to their employment. For instance, most occupations in the services sector cannot be undertaken remotely. Comparatively, the Partnership’s Business Confidence Survey 2022, carried out by Narrative Research, asked businesses if their employees transitioned to working remotely during the pandemic. 38.0% said “yes” and 58% responded “no.” The remaining 4% said that remote work did not apply to them.

The future of remote work seems to be strong with 67.9% of employees saying it was important that their employers offer remote working opportunities coming out of the pandemic and 67.1% of businesses intending to keep offering remote work after the pandemic.

The two surveys also asked about employee and employer perspectives on changes in productivity as a result of remote working arrangements. The similar response scales for the two questions made it possible to compare productivity perceptions and measures between employees and employers. The most common response was “no change.” Among employees, 38.2% believed that remote work had no change on their productivity and 47.6% of businesses felt the same way. Just over one-fifth (21.6%) of employees believed their productivity had significantly increased, but only 6.6% of businesses perceived significant increases in productivity. At the other end of the scale, 9.5% of businesses said that productivity significantly decreased compared with only 2.4% of employees.

Source: MQO Research, City Matters Survey (2022) and Narrative Research, Business Confidence Survey (2022).

Remote Work Opportunities and Intentions

  • Asked if their employers offered remote work opportunities since the start of the pandemic, 60.5% of respondents said “yes,” and 25.2% were not offered the choice to work remotely. 14.3% of the respondents said that remote work did not apply to them.
  • When businesses were asked if their employees transitioned to remote work since the start of the pandemic, 38.0% said “yes.” 58% of businesses had no employees working remotely during the pandemic.
  • 67.2% of businesses that offered remote work opportunities during the pandemic planned to continue to do so, but 32.8% said they would not.


Employee question: “How important is it to you that your employer offers remote working opportunities in the future?”

Source: MQO Research, City Matters Survey (2022)

Opinion of Continued Remote Work

  • 67.9% indicated that offering remote working opportunities was important (44.3% - “very important;” 23.6% - “somewhat important”).
  • The similar and high share of businesses that plan to offer remote working opportunities (67.1%) and of employees who believe the opportunity is important (67.9%) shows how important and integral remote work has become.
  • 17.1% of respondents said remote working was “not at all important” and 11.1% said “not very important.”


Source: MQO Research, City Matters Survey (2022) and Narrative Research, Business Confidence Survey (2022).

Change in Productivity from Remote Work

  • 39.0% of employees believed that their personal productivity increased since starting to work remotely. However, at 25.7%, a lower share of businesses saw productivity increase as employees transitioned to remote work.
  • 25.7% of employees believed their productivity declined as a result of remote working and an essentially identical share (25.8%) of businesses reported productivity declines.
  • The largest share of responses cited “no change” in productivity: 38.2% of employees and 47.6%.


Halifax Index 2022
Workplace Safety

Although slightly higher in 2021 because more workers came back to the workplace after pandemic closures the previous year, Nova Scotia’s injury rate of 1.58 per 100 workers continued a long-term improvement trend and reflected the strong focus on injury prevention. This rate is 3.3% above 2020 but down more than 9% from 2016.

In 2021, there were 73 cases of a worker contracting COVID-19 during the course of their work and missing time, up 28 cases from 2020. The majority of these cases (35) were in the health and social services sectors with 17 at hospitals, 11 at disability support homes, and 7 at other locations in the sector.

Source: Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia, Custom Request

Time-Loss Injury Claims

  • The injury rate increased to 1.58 per 100 workers in 2021, up 3.3% over 2020. The return of many employees to their workplaces after public health restrictions were relaxed was the main driver. This increase marked the first time the injury rate has risen in the province since 2017.
  • Since 2016, the injury rate has declined by more than 9% overall.


Source: Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia, Custom Request

Workplace COVID-19 Cases by Sector

  • The health and social services sector accounted for the largest share of workers contracting COVID-19 during the course of their work in 2021 with 35 (47.9%) of 73 total cases.
  • Within the health a social services sector, hospitals had 17 cases, disability homes had 11, and other services in the sector had 7.
  • Police and correctional services reported the second-largest share of cases with 20.5% (15).
  • Business services and other services reported 11 and 12 cases, respectively.


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