A Halifax-based think-tank says Atlantic Canada stands to lose hundreds of thousands of workers over the next several decades as it contends with a shrinking population.

In its latest report on population and the labour force, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies says the region is experiencing a “population crunch” that’s only expected to accelerate as people grow older.

The report is a followup to a 1998 AIMS study that predicted Atlantic Canada’s population would grow by about 35,000 people in the ensuing 10 years.

However, the latest study says the region’s population had actually shrunk by about 47,000 people as of 2006 and will likely continue to drop.

It predicts the hardest-hit province will be Newfoundland and Labrador, with an estimated 24 per cent drop in population by 2046.

On a positive note, the study says the Atlantic region has been successful in boosting participation in the labour force in the last decade despite a dropping population, particularly among women.