Halifax Index 2022

Strategy Scorecard

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Economic Strategy Scorecard

Together with the Halifax Regional Municipality, the Partnership led the development of People. Planet. Prosperity. Halifax’s Inclusive Economic Strategy 2022-27, which established four long-term targets.

Over the next five years, this strategy will guide us toward a prosperous and growing Halifax that puts the well-being of people and planet first. More than ever, a focus has been placed not just on the economy, but on measures of well-being, affordability, and environmental impact.

As part of the Halifax Index, the Partnership publishes an annual scorecard on our broader progress towards these objectives. Detailed below, you will find a track record of the economic and social progress we make across the five years of the plan. In the scorecard, you can also find links to relevant sections of the Index that explore these topics in greater detail.

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Halifax Index 2022

Grow GDP

As with its 2016-21 economic strategy, Halifax’s new economic strategy for 2022-27 includes growth in gross domestic product (GDP) as a key target. A 2027 GDP goal of $25 billion (measured in real 2007 dollars) has been set.

Following a pandemic-induced contraction of 2.1% in 2020, Halifax’s GDP bounced back strongly with a 6.0% growth rate in 2021.

Despite a number of serious challenges and uncertainties – COVID-19, labour shortages, rising inflation, a housing affordability crisis, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, supply chain breakdowns, etc. – the most recent edition of the Partnership’s Business Confidence Survey, carried out by Narrative Research, produced a record high for Halifax’s Business Confidence Index.

In contrast, these worries seem to have weighed more heavily on consumers than businesses, resulting in a 2021 Consumer Confidence Index score that, while slightly improved from 2020, was significantly below the long-term average.

Inflation recently has accelerated to levels not seen since the early 1990s. In 2021 inflation outstripped income growth by a wide margin, causing the purchasing power of the average Halifax consumer to shrink by 3.2% over 2020.

The new economic strategy approved by Halifax Regional Council in April 2022 included an enhanced focus on inclusion. As one means of tracking who has not been included in the city’s growing prosperity, the share of Halifax’s population living in poverty is included here as a metric. It is good to see that this rate has dropped steadily in recent years, declining to 8.3% in 2020.

Like inclusion, sustainability has been given added prominence in the new strategy. One key aspect of environmental sustainability is the trend for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Halifax. The HalifACT climate action plan calls for net GHG emissions in Halifax to decline from 4.2 MtCO2 in 2020 to 1.4 MtCO2 by 2030 and to zero by 2050. Through 2020, Halifax is not on track to meeting its emissions reduction targets.

Grow Population

While Halifax has seen dramatic improvement in population growth since 2016, long-term demographic challenges remain. The new economic strategy has set a goal of reaching a population of 525,000 by 2027. Despite the pandemic’s impact on travel in 2020-21, Halifax still managed to post a robust growth rate of 2.1%, adding almost 9,300 people.

Net migration to Halifax from outside Nova Scotia dropped from 2019-20 to 2020-21, but this is unsurprising given the constraints that were placed on travel due to COVID-19. Of special interest in 2020-21 is the change in composition of migrants: while the number of migrants from outside Canada dropped sharply (-59%), the number of newcomers to Halifax from other Canadian provinces jumped to a record high, 73% over the figure for 2019-20.

A critical component of Halifax’s population growth is the influx of international students at our post-secondary institutions. Despite the pandemic, international enrolment at Halifax’s universities hit its second-highest level ever in 2020-21 at 7,286, just below the record of 7,556 set the year before.

Because recent in-migration to Halifax has been dominated by young adults, Halifax’s median age declined to 39.8 years in 2021, down from a peak of 40.5 years in 2015.

Grow Labour Force

The 2022-27 economic strategy seeks to grow Halifax’s labour force to 310,000 by 2027. The labour force grew by 3.9% in 2021, the highest rate Halifax has seen in records going back to 2007. However, 2021 was an extraordinary year as there may have been many workers who left the labour force temporarily in 2020 due to the pandemic and then rejoined in 2021.

After dropping in 2020, the labour force participation rate also rebounded in 2021, reaching a figure of 68.0%, just below 2019’s pre-pandemic value of 68.1%.

Employment also hit a record-high in 2021 with almost 12,000 jobs added over 2020. Again, though, this large increase should be seen in the context of recovery from a loss of approximately 7,000 jobs between 2019 and 2020.

With jobs lost to the pandemic now largely recovered, the chief labour market concern is labour shortages. Halifax’s job vacancy rate spiked to an all-time record high of 3.9% in 2021. As 2021 came to an end, there were over 10,400 vacant jobs in Halifax, up from 6,400 in the first quarter of 2021.

Shifting focus to the labour force of the future, there are indicators of concern regarding P-12 student achievement. Results from 2020 – 2021 assessments did not take place due to COVID-19 – show that in the “best” subject, Reading, 23% of grade 6 students were assessed as being below expectations. More than 40% of students were below expectations in one element of Writing and 27% were below expectations in Mathematics.

Improve Well-Being

In addition to the GDP, population, and labour force metrics carried over from the 2016-21 economic strategy, the 2022-27 edition adds a well-being measure that is assessed through a question about life satisfaction in the Partnership’s annual City Matters survey.

Given more explicit attention to themes of inclusion in the 2022-27 strategy, the well-being measure focuses on those who perhaps are not fully enjoying the city’s broader progress and success. The precise metric included as a headline figure is the share of survey respondents who rated their life satisfaction as “low” with a score of 4 or lower on a scale from 0 to 10. The benchmark score obtained from the spring 2022 survey is 14.4%. The goal is to constantly reduce this figure over time.

Also included here is the mean score to the same life satisfaction question. In the 2022 results the mean was 6.7. Also of interest is that 62.1% of respondents gave answers in the “high” or “very high” range. It is hoped that both these figures will rise over time.

Survey results, newspaper headlines, and everyday discussions among Halifax residents demonstrate that rising housing prices and dwindling availability are major concerns and key components to quality of life. The RBC Affordability Index shows that in 2021, 32.6% of the average income level was required to afford an average house. This is up from 31.2% in 2020, but still considerably lower than the national figure of 47.5% and corresponding figures in cities such as Vancouver (64.3%), Toronto (61.9%), Victoria (49.9%), Montreal (40.7%), and Ottawa (40.0%).

Similar price and availability pressures are in play in the rental market, with CMHC’s calculations for the share of income required to afford rent rising steadily and hitting a value of 29.6% in 2021.

Tourism is a key economic driver for Halifax and tourism statistics provide a means of assessing the city’s desirability from a non-resident perspective. Overnight visitor stays in Halifax jumped sharply in 2021 over 2020 but remained far below 2019 levels. This all is understandable given the enormous impact that COVID-19 has had on the sector for the past two years.

In addition to the general life satisfaction question, the City Matters survey poses questions regarding how satisfied Halifax residents are with specific aspects of living here, with 76.3% reporting being “satisfied” or “very satisfied” in general. Similarly high satisfaction rates are found for Halifax as a place for recreation and play (76.3%), as a place to retire (72.6%), and as place to raise a family (70.5%). The shares drop below 70% for Halifax as a place for young people (69.3%) and as a place to work (65.2%).

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