More than 1,000 companies in N.S. in almost all sectors of the economy have applied for permission to use foreign workers, CBC News has learned.

Documents show between January 2009 and the end of April 2012 there were 1,029 requests from Nova Scotia employers to bring in foreign workers. In each case they have to prove they can't find qualified people in the province.

"I knew it was high but I was really surprised it was that high," said Rick Clarke of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour.

The list contains dozens of restaurants, universities, regional health authorities, day cares, long-term care facilities and some of the provinces biggest employers from Michelin Tires to Nova Scotia Power.

Clarke said he believes too many employers are using the program to get easy access to workers rather than investing in training Nova Scotians.

"They are taking the lazy way and to be quite honest not the real responsible way out of this," he said.

Premier Darrell Dexter said the program also costs Nova Scotians jobs in other ways.

"When cuts come to the workforce because they are required to give so many hours to temporary foreign workers it’s often local workers who end up without work while temporary foreign workers are being used," he said

Dexter says he believes the increased use of foreign workers is tied to cuts in employment insurance benefits. He said local seasonal workers are forced to head out west making it difficult for employers to get the workers they need

The number of people working in Nova Scotia has slightly increased according to Statistics Canada. About 400 hundred jobs were added over the last month.

Nationally, the unemployment rate is unchanged at 7.2 per cent.