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Employment Insurance, December 2017

Released: 2018-02-15

In December, 500,100 people received regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, down 1.1% from November. The number of EI recipients has been on a downward trend since October 2016.

There were fewer beneficiaries across many provinces, notably Quebec (-1.9%), Ontario (-1.2%) and British Columbia (-1.2%).

On a year-over-year basis, the number of EI recipients in Canada declined by 11.9% in December, similar to the decreases observed in the previous three months.

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

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

Provincial and sub-provincial overview

The number of EI beneficiaries in Quebec fell by 1.9% in December to 119,300, continuing a downward trend that began in the summer of 2016. Declines in the province were widespread, led by decreases in the census metropolitan areas (CMAs) of Trois-Rivières (-7.1%), Ottawa–Gatineau (Quebec part) (-3.0%), Montréal (-2.2%) and Saguenay (-1.9%). There were also declines in the census agglomerations (CAs) (-3.4%). Compared with December 2016, the number of beneficiaries in the province was down by 10.6%. Over the same period, data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) show that the unemployment rate declined 1.7 percentage points to 5.0%, the second lowest among the provinces.

In Ontario, 126,400 people received benefits in December, down 1.2%. The number of beneficiaries in the province has been on a downward trend since the autumn of 2016. There were declines in the number of EI recipients in the CMAs of Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo (-4.8%), St. Catharines–Niagara (-3.5%), London (-3.0%) and Oshawa (-2.8%), as well as in areas outside of the CMAs and CAs (-1.9%). At the same time, increases in the number of beneficiaries were recorded in the CMAs of Thunder Bay (+3.2%), Greater Sudbury (+3.0%) and Windsor (+2.0%). On a year-over-year basis, the number of beneficiaries in the province fell by 8.5%. According to the LFS, employment in the province rose by 2.6% during the same 12-month period.

The number of beneficiaries in British Columbia was down 1.2% to 46,300 people in December, the fourth decrease in five months. Declines were observed in the CMA of Kelowna (-4.5%), the CAs (-1.9%) and areas outside of the CMAs and CAs (-1.2%). In the 12 months to December, the number of EI recipients in the province decreased 15.8%, coinciding with improving labour market conditions. According to the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey, British Columbia had the lowest number of unemployed people relative to the number of vacancies (unemployment-to-vacancy ratio) among the provinces in the third quarter of 2017.

Employment Insurance beneficiaries by occupation

The number of beneficiaries fell in 9 of the 10 broad occupational groups in the 12 months to December. The largest year-over-year declines were among those whose last job was in natural and applied sciences (-20.4%), business, finance and administration (-17.5%), trades, transport and equipment operators (-13.9%), manufacturing and utilities (-13.1%) and management (-12.6%). A majority of the 10 broad occupational groups have been declining on a year-over-year basis since July 2017.

On the other hand, the number of beneficiaries in education, law and social, community and government services occupations increased 2.9%.

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

Employment Insurance beneficiaries in major demographic groups

In December, there were declines in the number of beneficiaries for both women and men, driven by decreases among those between the core ages of 25 and 54 (-1.2%). There were also fewer beneficiaries among young men aged 15 to 24 (-1.7%) and women aged 55 and over (-1.4%).

On a year-over-year basis, beneficiaries declined in all major demographic groups, led by core-aged men (-15.5%). There were also notable declines in the number of male beneficiaries aged 15 to 24 (-14.8%) and core-aged female beneficiaries (-11.2%).

Employment Insurance claims

The number of EI claims totalled 232,200 in December, up 1.4% from November. The number of claims provides an indication of the number of people who could become beneficiaries.

Claims increased in Quebec (+7.0%), New Brunswick (+5.1%), Ontario (+3.0%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (+1.3%). In turn, there were decreases in a number of provinces, most notably Saskatchewan (-11.9%) and Alberta (-7.8%). Smaller declines were registered in Manitoba (-2.5%), British Columbia (-2.1%), Prince Edward Island (-1.5%) and Nova Scotia (-1.2%).

Compared with December 2016, the number of claims fell by 2.1% nationally.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Employment Insurance claims
Employment Insurance claims

Changes to the Employment Insurance program

As of December 3, 2017, the Employment Insurance program was modified for workers taking time off due to specific life events. Extended parental benefits were introduced, allowing parents to take benefits for up to 18 months, as opposed to 12 months, at a lower rate. Furthermore, pregnant workers now have more flexibility as to when they can start receiving maternity benefits. The family caregiver benefit for adults was introduced and offered to any family member, or person considered to be like family, who provides care or support to a critically ill or injured adult. The parents of critically ill children benefit was renamed "family caregiver benefits for children," and was made accessible to any family member or person considered to be like family.

More information on the December 2017 EI changes is available on the Employment and Social Development Canada website.

  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.

As of December 3, 2017, the EI program was modified to better support workers who take time off due to specific life events. CANSIM tables 276-0017 and 276-0020 were expanded to reflect changes to benefit types.

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.

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 December 3 to 9, 2017. 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 January will be released on March 22.


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 Marton Lovei (613-240-3623; or Client Services (toll free: 1-866-873-8788;, Labour Statistics Division.

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