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Employment Insurance, September 2017

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Released: 2017-11-23

The number of regular Employment Insurance (EI) beneficiaries decreased by 11,600 (-2.2%) in September to 509,900. This decline follows a similar decrease in August (-2.4%) and continues the downward trend that began in October 2016.

The number of beneficiaries fell in six provinces, led by British Columbia (-5.9%) and Alberta (-5.2%). There were also declines in Saskatchewan (-3.3%), Manitoba (-2.2%), Ontario (-2.0%) and Quebec (-1.9%). The number of EI beneficiaries increased in Prince Edward Island (+7.4%), New Brunswick (+1.6%) and Nova Scotia (+1.0%).

In general, changes in the number of beneficiaries can reflect a number of different circumstances, including people becoming beneficiaries, those going back to work, those exhausting their regular benefits, and those no longer receiving benefits for other reasons.

Compared with September 2016, the number of EI recipients in Canada declined by 12.0%. Following the EI policy changes that came into effect in July 2016, the number of beneficiaries was unusually high in the latter half of 2016. Consequently, historical comparisons with September 2016 are not recommended, and the rest of this analysis focuses on month-to-month changes.

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

Provincial and sub-provincial overview

The number of EI beneficiaries in British Columbia decreased by 5.9% in September to 46,800, with declines spread across the province. Decreases were observed in all four census metropolitan areas (CMAs), led by Abbotsford–Mission (-21.8%), as well as in census agglomerations (CAs) (-4.9%) and areas outside CMAs and CAs (-4.8%).

In Alberta, 63,000 people received benefits, down 5.2% from August. The number of beneficiaries in Alberta has been declining steadily since the unusually high levels observed in the context of the 2016 EI policy changes, and is now on par with the previous high point seen during the 2008-2009 economic downturn. Monthly declines were observed in CAs (-7.1%), as well as in the CMAs of Edmonton (-5.3%) and Calgary (-5.1%).

The number of beneficiaries in Saskatchewan was down 3.3% to 17,700 in September, led by areas outside CMAs and CAs (-4.6%). For the CMAs, there were fewer people receiving benefits in Regina (-2.1%), while there was no change in Saskatoon.

Manitoba had 15,100 people receiving benefits, down 2.2% from August. Declines were spread across the province, led by the CAs (-5.5%). Beneficiaries in the CMA of Winnipeg decreased by 2.4%.

In Ontario, the number of beneficiaries decreased by 2,600 or 2.0% to 129,800, led by declines in the CMAs (-2.8%). While the deepest declines were in Windsor (-8.4%), Hamilton (-8.0%), and Barrie (-6.1%), more than half of the provincial decline was due to fewer beneficiaries in Toronto (down 1,700 or 3.5%).

There were 128,100 EI recipients in Quebec in September, down 1.9% from August. Declines were spread across the province, including the CMAs of Saguenay (-15.0%) and Québec (-4.0%).

For Newfoundland and Labrador, the number of EI beneficiaries edged down 0.9% to 38,600, as increases in the CMA of St. John's (+1.3%) were offset by declines in areas outside of the CMA and CAs (-1.4%).

The number of beneficiaries in Prince Edward Island totalled 8,300 in September, up 7.4% from August. The increase was spread across the province and was concentrated among persons aged 15 to 24 (+70.0%). It also coincided with the beginning of the school year for students eligible for the province's Training Prince Edward Island - Career Connect program. This program began in April 2017 and allows Prince Edward Island residents with an active EI claim to continue collecting benefits while enrolled in full-time postsecondary education.

In New Brunswick, there were 32,300 EI beneficiaries in September, up 1.6% from the previous month, driven by increases in CAs (+7.8%). The number of beneficiaries in the CMA of Moncton declined by 2.1%.

The number of beneficiaries in Nova Scotia increased by 1.0% to 27,900. Increases across the province were partly offset by a decline in the CMA of Halifax (-3.7%).

Employment Insurance beneficiaries in major demographic groups

In September, the number of EI beneficiaries declined among those in the core working ages of 25 to 54 (-2.8%) and those aged 55 and older (-2.3%). However, there were more youth recipients aged 15 to 24 (+2.3%), with all of the increases occurring among youth in Prince Edward Island (+70.0%), New Brunswick (+29.4%), and Nova Scotia (+7.6%).

This age pattern—declines for core-aged and older recipients, and an increase for youth—was true for both men and women, although the changes were larger for women. Beneficiaries declined by 4.5% among core-aged women, while they increased among young women by 5.9%.

Employment Insurance claims

The number of EI claims decreased for a second consecutive month, falling 3.4% to 224,800 in September. The number of claims provides an indication of the number of people who could become beneficiaries.

Among the provinces, claims declined the most in Quebec (-8.8%), followed by British Columbia (-4.0%), Nova Scotia (-2.6%), Alberta (-1.7%), Ontario (-1.5%) and Manitoba (-1.0%). Claims edged down in New Brunswick (-0.9%) and were virtually unchanged in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The number of claims in Prince Edward Island reached 2,800 in September (+7.2%), the highest level since May 2009 and, as mentioned above, coinciding with the beginning of the school year for participants in the Training Prince Edward Island - Career Connect program. There were also more claims in Saskatchewan (+6.7%), offsetting the declines in August.

Chart 2  Chart 2: 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.

Employment Insurance special benefits

Special benefits available under the Employment Insurance program include maternity and parental benefits, as well as sickness benefits. Maternity and sickness benefits were first introduced in 1971, with parental benefits added in 1990.

Information on special benefit recipients by sex is available beginning in 1997. Since that time, women have consistently accounted for more than 80% of all special benefit recipients in an average month (83.1% in 2016). This is primarily due to the fact that maternity and parental benefit recipients, who are almost exclusively women, make up more than two-thirds of all special benefits recipients.

The share of male recipients of parental benefits in an average month increased from 3.8% in 1997 to 7.9% in 2005, with most of the increase occurring in 2001. This coincided with significant changes to parental benefits in 2000, including an extension of the benefit period from 10 to 35 weeks and a reduction in the eligibility threshold from 700 to 600 hours of insurable employment. These changes may have allowed more families to share parental leave benefits between the parents.

From 2005 to 2016, the share of male recipients of EI parental benefits remained between 7.2% and 8.0%. However, this does not include the notable increase in the use of parental leave by fathers in Quebec following the introduction of the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan in 2006.

Women are also more likely to receive EI sickness benefits, accounting for nearly 60% of recipients in an average month over the last two decades. This is consistent with data from Women and Paid Work showing that women are more likely than men to miss work for reasons related to illness, injury, or personal or family responsibilities.

Sources: CANSIM table 276-0020 and "Women and Paid Work." Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report (Catalogue number89-503-X).

  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 were 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 September 10 to 16. 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 October will be released on December 19.


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 Gordon Song (613-793-2392; or Client Services (toll free: 1-866-873-8788;, Labour Statistics Division.

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