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Employment Insurance, May 2016

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Released: 2016-07-21

In May, 544,900 people received regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, up slightly (+4,800 or +0.9%) from the previous month.

Provincially, Alberta (+12.1%) recorded the largest increase in beneficiaries in May. Smaller gains occurred in Newfoundland and Labrador (+2.9%) and British Columbia (+1.8%). The number of beneficiaries decreased in the remaining provinces, including Prince Edward Island (-4.4%), Quebec (-2.3%), Manitoba (-1.7%), New Brunswick (-1.6%) and Saskatchewan (-1.0%).

In the 12 months to May, the number of EI beneficiaries in Canada was up by 12,800 or 2.4%.

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 Alberta, 77,800 people received EI benefits in May, up 8,400 or 12.1% from April, the largest advance since June 2009. Gains occurred throughout the province, including in Edmonton (+8.4%) and Calgary (+6.8%). However, nearly one-third of the provincial rise in the number of beneficiaries occurred in the census agglomeration (CA) of Wood Buffalo, which includes Fort McMurray. The number of beneficiaries in Wood Buffalo more than doubled (+141.6%) from 1,900 in April to 4,500 in May. This increase coincided with the wildfire in northern Alberta, which resulted in the evacuation of residents from the Fort McMurray area in early May. On a year-over-year basis, the number of beneficiaries in Alberta was up by 58.6%.

The number of EI beneficiaries in Newfoundland and Labrador rose by 2.9% in May to 34,300. Virtually all areas of the province recorded a gain in beneficiaries, with one of the largest increases occurring in the census metropolitan area (CMA) of St. John's (+4.7%). The number of beneficiaries in Newfoundland and Labrador grew by 6.1% compared with May 2015.

After six months of declines, the number of EI beneficiaries in British Columbia increased by 1.8% to 51,800 in May. There was little change in the number of beneficiaries in Vancouver, while the other three CMAs and many of the CAs in the province reported gains. On a year-over-year basis, the number of beneficiaries in British Columbia decreased by 1.4%.

The number of EI beneficiaries in Prince Edward Island declined 4.4% from the previous month to 7,400 in May.

Quebec had fewer people receiving EI benefits in May, down 2.3% from April to 140,800. There were fewer beneficiaries in four of the six CMAs, with decreases ranging from 5.0% in Gatineau to 1.3% in Montréal. Trois-Rivières and Sherbrooke reported little change. On a year-over-year basis, there were 7.1% fewer EI beneficiaries in Quebec.

The number of EI beneficiaries in Manitoba decreased by 1.7% in May to 15,200. There were declines throughout the province, including in Winnipeg (-1.9%). In the 12 months to May, the number of beneficiaries in Manitoba increased by 9.5%.

EI beneficiaries in New Brunswick totalled 32,000 in May, a decrease of 1.6% over the previous month. Declines occurred throughout the province, including in Moncton (-1.5%) and Saint John (-1.1%).

The number of EI beneficiaries in Saskatchewan (-1.0%) declined slightly to 16,100. While Saskatoon posted a decrease of 3.9%, Regina recorded an increase of 6.4%. On a year-over-year basis, the number of beneficiaries in the province grew by 21.6%.

While the number of EI beneficiaries in Nova Scotia and Ontario was little changed in May, this was not the case for some areas within these provinces. Halifax, Nova Scotia, posted a decrease (-2.3%), as did Oshawa (-2.3%) and Hamilton (-2.1%) in Ontario. At the same time, other areas in Ontario posted increases, including Greater Sudbury (+6.0%), Windsor (+4.8%), St. Catharines–Niagara (+4.7%) and London (+3.8%).

Employment Insurance beneficiaries in major demographic groups

In May, there was a slight increase in the number of men aged 25 to 54 (+1.6%) and women aged 15 to 24 (+1.3%) who were EI beneficiaries. The other major demographic groups were largely unchanged.

In the 12 months to May, there were increases in all major demographic groups, with the exception of women aged 25 to 54, who showed a decrease. While the total number of male beneficiaries rose on a year-over-year basis, the total number of female beneficiaries declined.

Employment Insurance claims

The number of EI claims totalled 264,200 in May—a gain of 23,300 or 9.7% over the previous month. This is the largest increase in claims since February 2009. The number of claims provides an indication of the number of people who could become beneficiaries.

Most of the national increase was attributable to a higher number of claims in Alberta. Claims in the province rose by 22,800 or 69.8% in May—the largest monthly gain in any province since the start of the series in 1997. As claims data pertain to the entire month, they cover much of the time that residents from the Fort McMurray area were under a mandatory evacuation order due to the wildfires in northern Alberta.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Employment Insurance claims in Alberta
Employment Insurance claims in Alberta

EI claims also increased in four other provinces: Prince Edward Island (+21.5%), Saskatchewan (+9.7%), Nova Scotia (+6.0%) and New Brunswick (+4.1%). On the other hand, Ontario (-1.2%) and British Columbia (-1.0%) reported small declines in the number of claims, while there was little change in Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Manitoba.

Compared with 12 months earlier, EI claims were up 5.7% at the national level in May. As with the monthly gain, the national rise in claims on a year-over-year basis was largely due to the sizable increase in claims in Alberta.

Chart 3  Chart 3: 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 May 15 to 21. 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 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 June will be released on August 18.


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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