Halifax Unemployment Data, 2006 Census

This weekend I projected unemployment data from the 2006 Census onto a map of Halifax.  I won’t say much about this topic because its subject matter lies well beyond my area of expertise; although I’m willing to make broad assumptions about population growth, I don’t want to speak too much about employment numbers lest some one quotes me on it.  (I see you in my site statistics, all you high school and jr. high kids logging in from ednet.ns.ca addresses – remember to click to the census data and cite them for your projects!)

Halifax unemployment data, 2006 census

First, some observations on the projection.  The unemployment figures for Halifax’s 88 Census Tracts ranged from 2.1% in Fairview (Tract 205.0017.00, south of Hwy 102 and north of the St. Margaret’s Bay Road) to 12.8% in Shannon Park (Tract 205.0112.00, south of the MacKay Bridge at Windmill Road), with the city’s average unemployment rate at 6.3%. This is a 10.7% spread, which I’ve separated into 5 fields with a 3% spread in each.  By showing 5 different unemployment rate groups, this spread gives a sharp level of detail, but on the other hand it creates a patchwork-quilt of colors with few discernible patterns.  Projecting data requires balancing data against visuals – if the data is not represented properly, then patterns may not emerge, or the patterns that do emerge may be misleading altogether.  Be sure, therefore, to click through to the original data files for each tract (links are provided on the tract’s data boxes).

[flexiblemap src=”http://michael.steeleworthy.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/20100208_Halifax_Unemployment_Data_2006_Census.kml” width=”700″ height=”400″]

And now, some observations on this map against others.  Thus far I’ve noted how Timberlea and the Sackvilles tend to stand out on census maps.  Both areas saw a significant decrease in population from 2001 to 2006, and my recent population density map shows that both areas are denser than their surrounding (more-)rural neighbours thanks to the network of highways spidering out from the peninsula.  What today’s map highlights is that both areas’ population decreases are mirrored by higher unemployment rates.  The areas may have a denser population than their surrounding census tracts, but people seem to be leaving (possibly to find work elsewhere?).

Base figures:

Population of Halifax in 2006: 372858
Labour force [persons ages 15+]: 309270
Unemployed persons in labour force: 13385
Unemployment Rate: 6.3%

Population of Nova Scotia in 2006: 913462
Labour force [persons ages 15+]: 756595
Unemployed persons in labour force: 43530
Unemployment Rate: 9.1%

Halifax maps – 2006 population per census tract

Given the fact that I am working with data from the 2006 Census Tracts, I decided it would be important to begin by plotting a map that shows the population of Halifax Regional Municipality per census tract (CT).


What’s important to understand when looking at this map is that these are representations of just whole numbers – we’re not looking at a population rate of decline or density.  StatCan’s census tracts, rather, are developed by a set of guidelines that take in account more than only population rates.  Boundaries should follow easily recognizably physical boundaries or major arteries and have populations between 2500 and 8000 (ideally around 4000); the areas must be as compact as possible; and the populations should ideally be homogeneous in terms of socio-economic conditions (source).  Therefore, CTs with lower populations on Halifax Peninsula are more likely indicative of latent socio-economic factors that promote lower densities that any sort of StatCan motive to consider these tracts as demanding special attention.

My next map, I think, will demonstrate density or growth rates.  There was upwards of an 11% population growth rate in the Clayton Park area between 2001 and 2006, but the area’s surround census tracts didn’t see nearly as large an increase – that might be interesting to demonstrate on a map.

Finally, if there is a lesson to be learned on the production of this map, it’s to avoid using a blue gradient for HRM since it blends so easily with the shoreline and ocean.  My next colours will be bolder, for sure.

Introducing a Halifax Google Map

(03 Jan 2010: Updates – Added links to the CT data files.)

I have something to share…


You’re looking at a colorful map of Halifax Regional Municipality.  Using information gathered from the 2006 Census, I’ve plotted the 2006 Census Tracts onto a map of Halifax using Google Earth and Google Maps so that data can be analyzed visually in the future. Aside from the colors and boundaries, there is no data attached to this particular map; this is a New Year’s project of sorts, so I hope to produce one rendered map of the city, region, or province per week.

I’ve been toying with the idea for this map for some time.  I originally began to mark up a map of Nova Scotia’s provincial constituencies last spring, but that project gave way to other concerns (i.e. the great outdoors) and I’ve since put it on the backburner since there is a new government on Hollis St.  Instead, I’ve produced a map this is closer to my professional interests.  I work regularly with socio-economic data from Statistics Canada and I’m familiar with its 2006 Census tools as well as with CANSIM and E-Stat; mashing up the data I use on a regular basis is a visual extension of my own research.

This page has been influenced from many other sites that deploy Google Earth and ArcGIS data on the internet – The Toronto Star’s Map of the Week, and the CBC‘s and the Globe and Mail‘s 2008 election coverage come to mind.  If you like what you see here, then consider checking out those sites as well.

For what it’s worth, the data used to produce this particular map is available on the Internet but is held through Crown Copyright by Statistics Canada.  I’m producing it anyway, though, since our fair dealing provisions allow for research and scholarship, which this is intended to be.  (i.e. Copyright Act and CCH are on my side, more or less.)