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Source: Statistics Canada

Halifax passes the prime test of a good economy - its population is growing.  A growing population is as important to a community as having a pulse is to a person.

Halifax’s population grew by 1.4% from 2011 to 2012 to over 413,000 people. This rate of growth outpaced national growth levels. Among its traditional benchmark cities, Halifax ranked third out of six in terms of proportional growth, behind St. John’s and Regina, whose high economic growth rates create compelling reasons to live and work there.

Halifax’s natural growth rate (births minus deaths) declined for the third straight year – a trend that is likely to continue as baby boomers age. This is mirrored in the shifts in population by age. Each year since 2000, the number of people aged 0-14 (pre-labour force age) declined. In 2012, there were nearly 8,000 fewer people in that age group in Halifax. This represents the largest real drop among our benchmark cities.

Conversely, the number of people over the age of 65 (post-labour force age) increased by 16,000 between 2000 and 2012. Proportionally, this represented the second highest level of growth among our benchmark cities, and higher than Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver.

These trends are worrisome. While populations are aging elsewhere, the decline in future labour force participants and the proportional increase in post-labour force population means that Halifax will need to rely more heavily on migration for the long-term sustainability of its workforce.





Source: Statistics Canada


The good news is that international migration totals rebounded in 2011-12, with over 3,200 new residents calling Halifax home. Proportionate to its population size, Halifax was second to only Regina in terms of international migration, but well behind larger centres like Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver. Given Halifax’s challenges with natural growth, proactive policies pushing Halifax’s international migration totals (including recommendations from last year’s Index to increase international student retention post-graduation) to levels in larger cities represent a significant opportunity to sustainably grow the population. 

With respect to migration within the country, a clear east-to-west trend continues. In 2011-12, every city in the Index east of Regina saw negative interprovincial migration totals, and every city in the West (except Vancouver) saw positive totals. While some movement from Halifax to Montreal or Toronto is surely occurring, Regina, Calgary, and Vancouver were the top three cities in terms of total population growth in 2012, indicating that more people are being attracted to western cities. 

Overall, it is clear that Halifax has demographic challenges it needs to address – the attraction and retention of young people, immigrants, and international students are at the forefront of Halifax’s long-term future. In the special analysis on Labour we explore some of the issues that Halifax is facing in the labour market and how Halifax can successfully improve the sustainability of the labour force and the tax base for the city and province.


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