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Iranian-born Negar Fakhraee, 8, takes the oath to become a Canadian citizen during a citizenship ceremony in Vancouver, B.C., on July 13, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl DyckDARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

More immigrants chose to make Nova Scotia their home last year than at any time in the last 10 years, the provincial government said Monday.

Immigration Minister Lena Metlege Diab issued a statement saying 2,661 immigrants settled in the province last year.

But the trend hasn't been a straight line of steady growth. Since 2004, when 1,771 immigrants arrived in Nova Scotia, the number rose almost every year and peaked at 2,651 in 2008 before dropping off to 2,138 in 2011 and rebounding steadily in the past three years.

Among last year's immigrants, 717 people came through the Nova Scotia Nominee Program — the highest number yet for the program. This year, a total of 1,050 individuals are expected to gain permanent residency through the program, the government says.

Diab also said more immigrants are choosing to stay in the province. She said the latest figures from Statistics Canada indicate 71 per cent of immigrants who arrived in Nova Scotia between 2007-2011 stayed in the province. These are the most recent numbers available, and the province relies on Ottawa to provide retention figures.

The retention rate for immigrants who arrived in Nova Scotia between 2003 and 2007 was 69 per cent.

Diab said the province has streamlined the application process for skilled and educated immigrants, strengthened ties between government and settlement service providers and changed the nominee program to allow international students to stay in Nova Scotia.

As well, the province appointed a premier's task force on immigration last August.

"Nova Scotia is a welcoming community and we want to ensure our province is seen by immigrants as an excellent choice," Diab said in a statement.

Last year, the government accepted a major economic development report that said the province is facing a prolonged economic decline unless population and economic trends are reversed and suspicious attitudes about business are changed.

Among other things, the report co-authored by Acadia University president Ray Ivany said Nova Scotia's population was expected to decline over the next 20 years as young people continue to leave the province to search for work.

By 2036, the province expects to have 100,000 fewer working-age people than it did in 2010, the report said.

Ivany said the number of people admitted annually to the province should be tripled.

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