The information economy is Halifax’s fastest-growing employer, though the university programs that feed skilled workers into the innovation ecosystem have seen their student bodies decrease, according to the Halifax Partnership economic development group’s 2024 Halifax Index.

The report, which defines industries based on the North American Industry Classification System used by Canada, the United States and Mexico, says Halifax gained the most jobs in 2023 in the “information, culture and recreation” industry. The category is focused on what the startup community would call information and communication technology and specifically excludes retail and wholesale distribution methods. Employers in the sector added 3,900 new jobs for 39 percent growth.

Although the Halifax Partnership does not work exclusively with startups, its annual reports provide an unusually granular look into the background economic activity that drives business conditions for high-growth companies. When it launched the 2023 Index this month, Entrevestor's data was included to show what was happening in the startup space. 

One development with the potential to significantly impact the finances of lean startups is employers’ self-reported belief that a previous competitive advantage of Atlantic Canada, relatively low labour costs, has eroded. In 2018, nearly two thirds of business owners in Halifax described the cost of labour as an upside of doing business in the city. This year, that figure has dropped to less than 45 percent.

For the first time since 2017, the Halifax universities also saw their combined enrolments decline -- though the sciences and mathematics continued to produce the second-highest number of graduates after commerce and administration, with 1,089 people earning bachelor’s degrees in the sciences and 494 earning master’s degrees or better.

Nova Scotia Community College, in contrast, grew its enrolment by more than the universities’ shrank. Information technology and data analytics was the fastest-growing field at more than 20 percent, with 476 people currently enrolled. Engineering technologies are the college's second most popular field, with 606 students.