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Employment Insurance, January 2017

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Released: 2017-03-23

In January, 567,900 people received Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, little changed from the previous month (-1,900 or -0.3%).

Provincially, Alberta recorded the largest decrease in beneficiaries in January (-6.2%). Smaller declines occurred in Saskatchewan (-1.9%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (-1.1%). Conversely, the number of beneficiaries increased in Quebec (+2.8%), Manitoba (+1.5%) and Prince Edward Island (+1.1%). It was little changed in the remaining provinces.

In the 12 months to January, the number of EI beneficiaries in Canada was up by 20,300 or 3.7%, largely as a result of increases in Alberta.

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

Part of the year-over-year increase in January may be related to changes in EI policy, including those that came into effect in July 2016. More information on the 2016 EI changes is available on Employment and Social Development Canada's website.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries
Regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries

Provincial and sub-provincial overview

In Alberta, 91,700 people received EI benefits in January—a decrease of 6,100 or 6.2% from December. This is the first notable decrease that has occurred in the province since September 2014, excluding August 2016, when there was a sizable offsetting decrease in the number of beneficiaries following the implementation of EI policy changes in July. The January 2017 decline was also the largest monthly (percentage) decrease in Alberta since April 2012.

Decreases in the number of beneficiaries occurred throughout Alberta, including the census metropolitan areas (CMAs) of Edmonton (-5.8%) and Calgary (-4.6%).

Beginning in July 2016, regular EI benefits were extended for anywhere from 5 to 25 weeks in 15 regions experiencing significant increases in the rate of unemployment, including all areas of Alberta as well as most areas of Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador. The January decrease in the number of beneficiaries in these provinces may reflect an increase in the number of people who have exhausted their extended benefits. In Alberta, the January decrease in the number of beneficiaries could also reflect improvements in the local labour market, coinciding with the recent rise in global oil prices, as well as remediation and reconstruction activity in Fort McMurray following the May 2016 wildfires.

On a year-over-year basis, the number of beneficiaries in Alberta rose by 41.2%.

In Saskatchewan, 19,300 people received benefits in January, 370 or 1.9% fewer than in December. Decreases were observed in all areas of the province, with the exception of Regina, where the number of beneficiaries increased by 3.8%. In the 12 months to January, the number of beneficiaries in Saskatchewan grew by 23.1%.

The number of beneficiaries in Newfoundland and Labrador decreased in January, down 430 or 1.1% to 37,400. The CMA of St. John's was the only area where the number of beneficiaries was little changed from December. Declines were observed in all other areas of the province. On a year-over-year basis, the number of beneficiaries in Newfoundland and Labrador increased by 6.7%.

After five months of decreases, the number of people receiving benefits in Quebec increased in January, up 3,800 or 2.8% from December to 136,900. While increases were observed throughout the province, the largest percentage increase occurred in the CMA of Sherbrooke (+8.2%). The increase in the number of EI beneficiaries in Quebec was most notable in occupations related to manufacturing and utilities, as well as in trades, transport and equipment operators.

In the 12 months to January, the number of beneficiaries in Quebec decreased by 6.2%.

The number of beneficiaries in Manitoba rose in January, up 230 or 1.5% from December to 16,100. Most of this increase occurred in the CMA of Winnipeg (+2.6%). On a year-over-year basis, the number of beneficiaries in the province increased by 2.9%.

The number of beneficiaries in Prince Edward Island grew by 90 or 1.1% in January to 7,900. This increase was evenly distributed across the province. In the 12 months to January, the number of beneficiaries in the province increased by 2.5%.

The number of EI beneficiaries in the other provinces was little changed in January. However, this was not the case for certain areas in New Brunswick, Ontario and British Columbia. The number of beneficiaries rose by 4.9% in Saint John, New Brunswick. In Ontario, Greater Sudbury (-6.6%), Peterborough (-2.3%) and Windsor (-2.2%) recorded decreases in the number of beneficiaries, while most of the remaining CMAs posted increases, including Thunder Bay (+3.6%), Guelph (+3.4%) and London (+2.9%). In British Columbia, there were fewer beneficiaries in Kelowna (-4.2%) and Victoria (-3.7%), while there were more in Vancouver (+2.1%).

Employment Insurance beneficiaries by occupation

Looking at the last occupation of EI beneficiaries, in the 12 months to January, the only decrease occurred in education, law and social, community and government services (-5.0%). It was the 12th consecutive month in which an annual decrease occurred in this occupational group. January marked the fifth consecutive month where the number of beneficiaries in manufacturing and utilities was little changed on a year-over-year basis.

The number of beneficiaries increased in 8 of the 10 major occupational groups. The most notable increases were in management occupations (+6.3%); trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations (+6.2%); and health occupations (+5.9%). The number of beneficiaries in management occupations, business, finance and administrative occupations, natural and applied science occupations, and trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations has been increasing on a year-over-year basis since early 2015. In contrast, the upward trend in the number of beneficiaries in health occupations, occupations in art, culture, recreation and sport, and sales and service occupations began after EI policy changes were implemented in July 2016.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries by occupation, January 2016 to January 2017
Regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries by occupation, January 2016 to January 2017

Employment Insurance beneficiaries in major demographic groups

In January, there was a decrease in the number of women aged 55 years and older (-1.4%) who were beneficiaries. All of the other major demographic groups were virtually unchanged.

On a year-over-year basis, the number of male (+4.2%) and female (+2.8%) beneficiaries increased in January. Among women, 65.8% of this increase consisted of those aged 55 years and older. Among men, 47.0% of the additional beneficiaries in January were aged 25 to 54 and 52.5% were aged 55 years and older.

Employment Insurance claims

The number of EI claims totalled 227,100 in January, down 10,400 or 4.4% from the previous month.

The number of claims decreased in all provinces in January, with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador, where it increased, and Quebec, where it was essentially unchanged. Among the provinces, Alberta had the largest reduction in the number of claims (-15.0%). It was the largest monthly decrease in the province since June 2009, excluding offsetting decreases in June and August 2016. This decrease may reflect an increase in the number of people who have either not had insurable employment or not accumulated enough insurable hours in the past 12 months, and who are therefore not eligible to claim EI benefits. As with the decrease in the number of beneficiaries in Alberta, the decrease in the number of claims may also reflect improvement in the provincial economy.

In January, British Columbia (-6.8%) and Ontario (-4.2%) also had decreases in the number of claims. Together with Alberta, they accounted for much of the national decrease.

Compared with 12 months earlier, the number of claims in Canada was down by 8.5% in January.

The number of claims provides an indication of the number of people who could become beneficiaries.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Employment Insurance claims
Employment Insurance claims

Telling Canada's story in numbers; #ByTheNumbers

In celebration of the country's 150th birthday, Statistics Canada is presenting snapshots from our rich statistical history.

The beginnings of Employment Insurance

In 1918, the Employment Offices Co-ordination Act was introduced to help unemployed Canadians, particularly soldiers returning from the First World War, find work. The Great Depression of the 1930s highlighted the need to go beyond employment placement.

In 1940, after constitutional negotiations with the provinces to extend federal powers into the area of unemployment insurance, the Unemployment Insurance Act was introduced. This legislation established a national system of unemployment insurance, financed through contributions from employees, employers and the Government of Canada.

Initially, the scope of the Unemployment Insurance program was quite narrow. It excluded from coverage a number of types of work, including agriculture, forestry, fishing, logging, hospital care, education and any employment with remuneration in excess of $2,000 per year. Employees of the municipal and provincial public sector were also excluded from coverage, unless their employers decided to participate. Consequently, fewer than half (42%) of workers were covered by Unemployment Insurance in 1942.

The first date that claimants could qualify for benefits was January 27, 1942. That year, 1,400 people were beneficiaries. By the end of 2016, 569,800 people were beneficiaries.

For more information, see the Guide to Employment Insurance Statistics, 2016 (Catalogue number73-506-G) and "Employment Insurance in Canada: Policy Changes" in Perspectives on Labour and Income (Catalogue number75-001-XPE).

  Note to readers

Concepts and methodology

The analysis presented here focuses on people who received regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits related to job loss. Claims data pertain to initial and renewal claims received for any type of EI benefits, including special benefits.

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 most recent series of changes was introduced in July 2016.

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.

EI statistics indicate the number of people who received EI benefits and should not be confused with Labour Force Survey (LFS) data, which provide estimates of the total number of unemployed people. 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 is 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.

Numbers in the Daily text are rounded to the nearest hundred.

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 January 15 to 21. This period coincides with the reference week of the LFS. However, claims data are for the entire month.

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 Employment Insurance for February will be released on April 20.


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).

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; or Client Services (toll free: 1-866-873-8788;, Labour Statistics Division.

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