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 population growth, 2001 to 2006

Today’s map improves on last week’s iteration, which only plotted population figures per census tract in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  This week, I’ve traced population growth for each census tract in Halifax Regional Municipality using freely available data from the 2001 and 2006 Statistics Canada censuses.

A census tract (CT) is a a compact, populated area.  It should have clearly defined boundaries, a population that is fairly homogeneous from a socio-economic standpoint, with roughly 2500 to 8000 (but ideally about 4000) people living in it (source).


This map reveals interesting trends in Halifax population patterns. For the most part, peninsular Halifax and old Dartmouth have stagnant or declining populations, while the suburbs (especially in western HRM) show strong population growth.  Rural areas such as old Halifax County and the Chebucto Peninsula have roughly remained stagnant.  Some CTs, however, have rates of decline or growth that differ in large degree from their neighbouring CTs, including:

  • 2500008.00 . Located on Halifax Peninsula, this 16.5% spike in growth may be caused by the cumulative effect of condominium developments such as the Bishop’s Landing development on the waterfront.
  • 2500131.02 and surrounding areas. Lower Sackville showed a localized and sharp population decline, with rates ranging from 5-7%.
  • 2050025.02 . Clayton Park, despite being so close to peninsular Halifax, showed a 11.5% decline in population.

It will be interesting to see how the proposed development of the land east of Bayers Lake, which is divided between 2500025.03 and 2500024.00 will affect population rates in this area.  Perhaps the development (which likely won’t be ready in time for the 2011 census) will improve growth figures for CT 2050024.00 in the future.

Producing this map reinforces the reasons why census tracts should all have a uniform size.  Halifax Regional Municipality covers a large amount of urban, suburban, and rural land, and its census tracts’ population figures range from under 1000 to over 6000.  This spread makes it difficult to measure one CT’s population growth or decline against another CT’s own rate.  For instance the population of 205113.00, off of Windmill Road in Dartmouth, declined by 185 people in 2006, a difference of -20.6%.  Meanwhile, the population of 2050004.02, in old Halifax’s south end, declined by 158 people in 2005, a difference of -3.6%.  Since populations can vary quite a bit from one census tract to another, be sure to check the actual population figures of surrounding census tracts when comparing one colour code to another.

Population of Halifax in 2001: 359183

Population of Halifax in 2006: 372858

Difference: 3.8%

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.