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Employment Insurance, March 2016

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Released: 2016-05-19

In March, 545,700 people received regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, essentially unchanged from the previous month (-2,400 or -0.4%). The number of EI beneficiaries has been little changed since the fall of 2015.

Provincially, the number of EI beneficiaries decreased in Newfoundland and Labrador (-2.4%), Ontario (-1.5%), Nova Scotia (-1.1%) and British Columbia (-1.0%). In Alberta, on the other hand, the number of beneficiaries continued to increase, up 3.3% in March over the previous month. There were also more beneficiaries in Manitoba (+1.1%), while little change was observed in the remaining provinces.

On a year-over-year basis, the total number of EI beneficiaries in Canada was up by 25,400 or 4.9%, largely as a result of increases in Alberta.

Changes in the number of regular EI beneficiaries reflect various situations, including people becoming beneficiaries, those going back to work and those no longer receiving regular benefits.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Number of regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries
Number of regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries

Provincial and sub-provincial overview

In Newfoundland and Labrador, 33,900 people received EI benefits in March, down 2.4% from February. The census metropolitan area (CMA) of St. John's (-1.1%) had fewer EI beneficiaries, as did the rest of the province.

The number of EI beneficiaries in Ontario decreased by 1.5% in March compared with the previous month, totalling 141,700. There were fewer beneficiaries in 9 of 15 CMAs, with a notable decrease in Windsor (-25.6%). Barrie and Thunder Bay were the only CMAs in Ontario with more beneficiaries.

Nova Scotia had fewer people receiving EI benefits in March, down 1.1% from February to 27,500, with the largest decline occurring in Halifax. On a year-over-year basis, EI beneficiaries in the province declined by 3.6%, mostly in areas outside Halifax.

The number of EI beneficiaries in British Columbia also decreased in March, down 1.0% over February to 52,300. Most areas of the province reported a decline in recipients, though Abbotsford–Mission (+4.6%) posted an increase. In the 12 months to March, there were 5.0% more beneficiaries in British Columbia, with much of the growth occurring in areas outside of Vancouver and Abbotsford–Mission.

In Alberta, 67,600 people received regular EI benefits in March, up 3.3% from February, continuing an upward trend that began in the fall of 2014. Both the CMAs of Calgary (+2.5%) and Edmonton (+2.2%) had more recipients, as did the rest of the province. On a year-over-year basis, the number of EI beneficiaries in Alberta increased by 67.6%.

The number of EI beneficiaries in Manitoba (+1.1%) rose slightly in March, with most of the increase occurring in areas outside of Winnipeg and the census agglomerations (CAs). On a year-over-year basis, the number of beneficiaries in Manitoba increased by 11.8%.

While the number of EI beneficiaries in the remaining provinces was little changed in March, this was not the case for some areas within Quebec and Saskatchewan.

Most areas within Quebec recorded declines in EI recipients. However, among the CMAs, the number of beneficiaries in Montréal and Saguenay was largely unchanged from February.

Saskatchewan also had little change in March, but Regina posted an increase of 2.5%, while the number of EI beneficiaries fell by 2.1% in Saskatoon.

Employment Insurance beneficiaries in major demographic groups

Compared with February, none of the major demographic groups saw a notable change in the number of EI beneficiaries in March. However, on a year-over-year basis, there were increases in virtually all major demographic groups, with a greater increase in the number of men receiving benefits (+7.1%) than women (+1.2%).

Employment Insurance claims

From February to March, the number of EI claims was little changed at 236,200. The number of claims provides an indication of the number of people who could become beneficiaries.

There were more EI claims in five provinces: British Columbia (+8.1%), Saskatchewan (+5.7%), Manitoba (+3.9%), Ontario (+3.4%) and Nova Scotia (+2.7%). In contrast, EI claims were down in Quebec (-8.0%), Alberta (-2.3%) and Prince Edward Island (-1.2%). There was little change in Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick.

Compared with 12 months earlier, EI claims were down 4.6% at the national level. This decline was largely the result of fewer claims in Ontario and Quebec on a year-over-year basis.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Employment Insurance claims
Employment Insurance claims

  Note to readers

Availability of data by occupation

Information on Employment Insurance (EI) beneficiaries by occupation will not be available until the completion of the reclassification of the administrative files to the 2011 National Occupational Classification (NOC) from the 2006 National Occupational Classification for Statistics (NOC-S).

As a consequence, the table, "Beneficiaries receiving regular income benefits by occupation," is not available in The Daily. In addition, CANSIM tables 276-0040 and 276-0041 cannot be updated and will be replaced by new CANSIM tables once the reclassification is completed.

Concepts and methodology

Regular EI benefits are available to eligible individuals who lose their jobs and who are available for and able to work but cannot find a job. To receive EI benefits, individuals must first submit a claim. The number of claims provides an indication of the number of people who could become beneficiaries.

There is always a certain proportion of unemployed people who do not qualify for benefits. Some unemployed people have not contributed to the program because they have not worked in the past 12 months or their employment was not insured. Other unemployed people have contributed to the program but do not meet the eligibility criteria, such as workers who left their job voluntarily or those who did not accumulate enough hours of work to receive benefits.

All data in this release are seasonally adjusted. For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally adjusted data – Frequently asked questions.

EI statistics are produced from administrative data sources provided by Service Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada. These statistics may, from time to time, be affected by changes to the Employment Insurance Act or administrative procedures.

The number of regular EI beneficiaries and the number of claims received for the current and previous month are subject to revision.

The number of beneficiaries is a measure of all people who received EI benefits from March 13 to 19. This period coincides with the reference week of the Labour Force Survey (LFS). However, initial and renewal claims data are for the entire month.

EI statistics indicate the number of people who received EI benefits and should not be confused with LFS data, which provide information on the total number of unemployed people.

Geographical definitions

A census metropolitan area (CMA) or a census agglomeration (CA) is formed by one or more adjacent municipalities centred on a population centre. A CMA, also referred to as a "metropolitan area," must have a total population of at least 100,000. A CA must have a population of at least 10,000. See Standard Geographical Classification 2011 – Definitions for more information.

Next release

Data on EI for April will be released on June 23.


More information about the concepts and use of Employment Insurance statistics is available online in the Guide to Employment Insurance Statistics (Catalogue number73-506-G), from the Browse by key resource module of our website, under Publications.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Melissa Moyser (613-951-4027;, Labour Statistics Division.

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