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Thomas StorringDirector – Economics and Statistics
Tel: 902-424-2410Email:

April 25, 2024

Statistics Canada has released the 2021 results for provincial and territorial business and employment dynamics.  This covers incorporated and unincorporated businesses in the private sector that issue at least one T4 slip in any given calendar year, but excludes self-employed individuals or partnerships where the participants do not draw salaries. 

Following active business reductions in the early stages of the pandemic, the number of active employer businesses in Nova Scotia rose by 1,070 (+4.0%) to 27,900 in 2021 - the highest number of active businesses since 2011.


Among provinces, Nova Scotia reported the fastest growth in active private sector employer businesses in 2021.  Alberta was the only province to report a decline in active private sector employer businesses from 2020 to 2021. 

Among the 27,900 active private sector businesses, there were 23,800 incumbent businesses (continuing operations from previous years) as well as 4,100 new entrants.  This was offset by exit of 2,970 firms from the numbers of previous incumbents.  Entrants in any given year are enterprises that have current payroll data, but that did not have payroll data in the previous year. Similarly, exits in any given year are identified by the absence of current payroll data, where such data had existed in the previous year. 

Measured in percentage terms (relative to an average of prior and current year totals), the entry rate for new firms rose to 15.0% in 2021, up from from 11.8% in 2020.  The exit rate for firms fell to 10.9% in 2021, down from 13.4% in 2020.  

All provinces reported higher entrants than exits in 2021.  Prince Edward Island reported the highest rates for both business entry and business exit.  Quebec reported the lowest business entry and business exit rates.  Alberta and Saskatchewan reported the smallest gaps between exit and entry rates while Nova Scotia reported the largest gap between exit rates and entry rates.  

By industry, unclassified businesses accounted for a notably faster entry rate.  Among classified industries, the fastest entry rates were reported in mining/quarrying, professional/technical services and transportation.  Entry rates were slowest in wholesale, retail and agriculture/forestry/fishing.

The fastest exit rates were also reported among unclassified businesses as well as mining/quarrying.  The slowest exit rates were observed in company management and retail.

Statistics Canada's business employment dynamics data also examines employment changes in the private sector.  In 2021, there was net private sector employment creation of 7.5% in Nova Scotia, representing gross employment creation of 15.8% against gross employment destruction of 8.3%.  

Net employment growth is broken down into four subcomponents of gross employment creation and destruction: employment creation by entrants (2.3%), employment creation by growing incumbents (13.4%), employment destruction by exits (1.2%), and employment destruction by declining incumbents (7.1%). 

In all years since 2000, most net private sector employment change is explained by employment creation or destruction by incumbents rather than by new entrants or exiting firms.  

The contribution that each industry makes to overall employment dynamics depends on its share of overall employment and its gross employment creation or destruction.  Industries such as manufacturing, retail, wholesale, finance/insurance, administrative and support services, information and culture, and accommodation/food account for a larger share of total employment than their share of active businesses (indicating a larger number of employees per business).  Agriculture/forestry/fishing, construction, personal/repair services and professional/technical services are examples of industries with a greater share of active businesses than their share of employment (fewer employees per business).

The share of businesses by firm size (as measured by number of employees) is highest for those firms employing fewer than 5 people.  However, these small firms account for 11.6% of private sector employment.  In contrast, firms with over 100 employees make up just 1.1% of all firms in Nova Scotia, but employ 40.6% of private sector employees.

Net employment creation was strongest among unclassified businesses.  Among identified industries, net private sector employment growth was strongest in agriculture/forestry/fishing, information/culture, arts/recreation and professional/technical services.  Only company management and mining/quarrying reported net employment declines. 

Among industries, the largest contributions to Nova Scotia's gross employment creation in 2021 (15.8%) came from retail, accommodation/food services, manufacturing and construction.  By employment size, private sector businesses with over 100 employees made the largest contribution to gross employment creation. 

Among industries, retail and administrative/business support services (including call centres) had the largest contributions to Nova Scotia's private sector gross employment destruction in 2021 (-8.3%).  By size of employment, businesses with between 5 and 20 employees made the largest contribution to gross employment destruction in Nova Scotia in 2021.

Source: Statistics Canada.  Table  33-10-0087-01   Business Dynamics measures, by industry, per province or territoryTable 33-10-0088-01 Business Dynamics measures, by firm size, per province or territoryTable 33-10-0090-01 Business Sector employment flow rates by firm size, provinces and the territoriesTable  33-10-0089-01   Business Sector employment flow rates, by industry, provinces and the territoriesTable  33-10-0091-01   Contribution to private sector employment, gross employment creation and destruction, by Industry, per province or territoryTable 33-10-0093-01 Contribution to private sector employment, gross employment creation and destruction by firm size, provinces and the territories

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