Strong population growth continued in 2017. Halifax experienced a 1.6% population increase, from 424,950 to 431,701, over the period July 2016 to June 2017. This follows record population growth in 2016 and is the second largest year-over-year growth in the past decade. Immigration continues to be the main driver, accounting for almost 90% of the city’s net population growth. Halifax’s natural population growth—the number of births minus the number of deaths—declined for the fifth consecutive year, reaching the lowest level of the millennium. Last year did, however, see the first increase in births in seven years.

Halifax’s population growth rate was higher than the national average and third among benchmark cities. Regina grew the fastest for the second straight year at 2.4%.

Halifax had the second highest number of net international migrants among benchmark cities. The approximately 4,500 newcomers who arrived between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, follows an influx of over 5,800 migrants during the previous year. To put these figures into context, since 2001, the next-best year for net international migration was 2010- 11 when 2,800 immigrants arrived.

Halifax’s intraprovincial migration—the net number of people moving into Halifax from elsewhere in Nova Scotia—in 2017 was consistent with the previous decade during which an average of 1,377 people moved here from other counties. This number has been quite steady, hovering in approximately the 1,200 to 1,500 range during this period. While the net interprovincial migration figure for Halifax was small, it was positive for the second straight year following four consecutive years of net interprovincial outmigration.



Two broad trends distinguish Halifax’s demographic evolution. First, Halifax is getting older. From 2011 to 2016, the median age in Halifax climbed from 39.9 years to 41.0 years, and the proportion of the population ages 65 and older jumped from 13.1% to 15.7%. Second, Halifax’s population has become increasingly diverse. For instance, the proportion of the population for whom English or French is not a first language has risen from 6.2% in 2011 to 7.7% in 2016.


Over the same period, the immigrant share of Halifax’s population has climbed from 8.1% to 9.4%. Halifax’s visible minority population has increased from 9.1% to 11.4%, while the share of Halifax residents identifying as Aboriginal has increased from 2.5% to 4.0%. The increase of those identifying as Aboriginal may be in part a function of recent changes to the legal definition of Métis.

Despite these increases, Halifax remains less diverse than several comparator cities. Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (KCW) and Regina, for example, have more than double Halifax’s shares of immigrant and Aboriginal populations, respectively. Looking more closely at age, Figure 5 shows that the largest population increases in Halifax last year occurred in the 25 to 39 and 55+ age cohorts, with more modest growth in the 0 to 14 group, a small decrease in the age 15 to 24 bracket, and a large decline in the number of those ages 40 to 54. The large and continuing increase in the 55+ category is consistent with the general trend of population aging that is now occurring in our region. The substantial increase within the prime age group for establishing careers and families (25 to 39) and the relatively small decrease in the age 15 to 24 cohort compared to previous years are very positive signs that may reflect goals to improve youth retention and attract working- age immigrants.


Given long-standing concerns about the loss of our youth to central and western Canada, it is interesting to look at the age profile of those moving between Halifax and other provinces. Positive and improving figures for the 15 to 24 age group and a significant turnaround from negative to positive in the 25 to 39 cohort are welcome developments.

Labour and Employment

Halifax’s labour force grew by only 0.1% in 2017, below the national average of 1.1%, and second lowest among benchmark cities. St. John’s, in last place, was the only city to have a decrease in its labour force. The labour force participation rate—the percentage of the population ages 15 and older who are in the workforce—continues to decline in Halifax, dropping from 68.0% in 2016 to 67.1% in 2017.


The Halifax labour force also continues to grow older. From 2013 to 2017, the number of those ages 65+ increased by 2,200, while the percentage of the labour force that is 65 and older grew from 3.0% to 3.9%. The participation rate for those 65+ climbed during the same period from 13.8% to 14.5%. Therefore, the concerns over an aging population and its impact on the labour force in aggregate are at least partially offset by increased labour force attachment within the 65+ cohort. It is not clear the extent to which this latter trend is driven by choice (e.g. a desire to stay active and connected) or by necessity (e.g. working income is required to alleviate financial concerns).


Halifax experienced a small decrease in employment of 0.7% in 2017. Full-time employment, however, decreased significantly by 2,900 jobs, while there was a gain of 1,500 part-time jobs.


The unemployment rate in Halifax increased between 2016 and 2017 from 6.1% to 6.8%. Halifax’s unemployment rate was above the national average of 6.3% and higher than all benchmark cities with the exception of St. John’s. Halifax’s youth unemployment rate (ages 15 to 24) also increased to 16.1%, the highest rate in 20 years, and perhaps surprisingly was larger than in St. John’s and Calgary, two cities that are continuing to recover from the decline in oil prices. Among the major cities listed in Figure 8, Halifax has the highest ratio

Workplace Safety


Halifax and Nova Scotia both saw a small decrease in the number of registered injury claims in 2017. Registered injury claims declined by 3.8% to 10,647 in Halifax and by 2.4% to 24,034 across Nova Scotia.


Time-loss injury claims across Nova Scotia increased from 5,839 to 5,901 in 2017, but fell slightly from 2,508 to 2,489 in Halifax. Those who were injured were off work for longer, however. This is the third consecutive year that there has been an increase in the average weeks of paid leave in Nova Scotia, with an average time-loss claim for 2017 of 7.5 weeks. The average weeks of paid leave due to time-loss claims in Halifax increased from 6.5 weeks to 6.6 weeks.


The 2018 Business Confidence Survey found that 76% of businesses surveyed felt that Halifax’s workplace safety culture was an advantage, with only 9% citing it as a disadvantage.