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Employment Insurance, December 2018

Released: 2019-02-21

In December, 446,300 people received regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, up 4,600 or 1.0% from November.

The number of beneficiaries increased in six provinces: New Brunswick (+4.6%), Saskatchewan (+3.6%), Prince Edward Island (+2.6%), Alberta (+2.4%), Manitoba (+2.2%) and British Columbia (+2.0%).

On a year-over-year basis, the number of EI recipients in Canada fell by 52,700 (-10.6%), with decreases in eight provinces.

In general, variations in the number of beneficiaries can reflect changes in the circumstances 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

In New Brunswick, the number of EI beneficiaries rose by 4.6% to 31,600 in December, led by those who last worked in occupations in manufacturing and utilities. The census metropolitan area (CMA) of Saint John (+6.9%) saw the largest increase in EI recipients. Despite the month-over-month increase in the number of beneficiaries in New Brunswick, the number of EI recipients in the province was little changed on a year-over-year basis.

In December, the number of EI beneficiaries in Saskatchewan rose for the first time in 12 months, up 3.6% to 15,600. The largest increases were reported in the CMAs of Regina (+5.7%) and Saskatoon (+5.6%). On a year-over-year basis, the number of EI recipients in the province decreased by 14.1%. This coincided with a 0.8 percentage point decrease in Saskatchewan's unemployment rate from December 2017 to December 2018, according to the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

In Prince Edward Island, there were 8,300 beneficiaries in December, or 2.6% more than the previous month, with the increase spread across the province. At the same time, data from the LFS showed the unemployment rate for the province rose by 1.0 percentage point to 9.6%. Year over year, there were 2.5% fewer beneficiaries in Prince Edward Island, with most of the decrease occurring in the first half of 2018.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries by province, November to December 2018
Regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries by province, November to December 2018

In December, the number of EI recipients in Alberta increased by 2.4% to 47,800, led by those who last worked in natural resources, agriculture and related production occupations. This marked the largest rise in beneficiaries in the province in two years, and may be partially linked to weaker oil prices in the fall of 2018. The largest percentage increase in the number of recipients occurred in the areas outside CMAs and census agglomerations (CAs) (+4.3%). Compared with 12 months earlier, the number of beneficiaries in Alberta decreased by 24.3%.

There were 15,700 EI recipients in Manitoba in December, an increase of 2.2%. The CMA of Winnipeg was the largest contributor to this rise, with a 2.6% increase in beneficiaries. Year over year, the number of people receiving EI benefits in the province was little changed.

In British Columbia, the number of EI recipients rose by 2.0% to 38,500 in December, led by the CAs (+4.3%). In the 12 months to December, the number of beneficiaries in the province decreased by 17.2%.

Employment Insurance beneficiaries by occupation

In December, the number of EI beneficiaries rose month over month in 6 of the 10 broad occupational groups. The largest percentage increases were among those who were last employed in natural resources, agriculture and related production (+2.1%); and sales and service (+1.6%). Smaller increases were observed in natural and applied sciences and related occupations (+1.3%); manufacturing and utilities (+1.2%); art, culture, recreation and sport (+1.1%); and trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations (+1.0%). At the same time, the number of EI recipients declined for those who last worked in management (-1.2%).

Compared with December 2017, the number of beneficiaries decreased in all 10 broad occupational groups.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries by occupation, December 2017 to December 2018
Regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries by occupation, December 2017 to December 2018

Employment Insurance claims

In December, the number of Employment Insurance claims edged down 0.9% to 234,500. The number of claims provides an indication of the number of people who could become beneficiaries.

Chart 4  Chart 4: Employment Insurance claims
Employment Insurance claims

Claims increased in Newfoundland and Labrador (+3.2%), Saskatchewan (+2.5%) and Quebec (+1.1%). At the same time, decreases were observed in Manitoba (-4.8%), Ontario (-3.8%), New Brunswick (-3.0%) and Nova Scotia (-1.8%). There was little change in Alberta, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island.

On a year-over-year basis, claims rose by 1.2% at the national level, with the largest increases in Newfoundland and Labrador (+15.8%) and Saskatchewan (+11.3%). Ontario (-1.0%) was the sole province where the number of claims decreased over the period.

Fishing benefits: Did you know?

Fishing benefits are a separate type of EI benefit, offered to eligible self-employed fishers who are out of work. In 2018, an average of 12,500 people received this type of EI benefit in any given month. Of the population that received fishing benefits, men aged 25 to 54 represented the largest proportion (42.1%), followed by men aged 55 years and older (32.6%). Women aged 15 and older represented 21.2% of those who received fishing benefits.

Chart 5  Chart 5: Number of fishing Employment Insurance beneficiaries, annual averages
Number of fishing Employment Insurance beneficiaries, annual averages

Most people who received this type of benefit lived in Newfoundland and Labrador (41.9%) and Nova Scotia (18.5%), followed by Prince Edward Island (10.5%), New Brunswick (10.4%) and British Columbia (9.8%). Quebec (4.4%), Manitoba (2.9%) and Saskatchewan (0.7%) were less represented. The remaining 0.9% of recipients were spread across the territories, Ontario and Alberta.

Chart 5 shows the annual average number of fishing EI beneficiaries from 2008 to 2018. A downward trend was observed from 2008 to 2014, however, most of the decrease that occurred in that time was regained by 2017. As a result, the annual average in 2018 (12,500) was little changed from the annual average in 2008 (12,600).

For more information on fishing benefits and eligibility, visit EI Fishing benefits - Overview.

Sustainable Development Goals

On January 1, 2016, the world officially began implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—the United Nations' transformative plan of action that addresses urgent global challenges over the next 15 years. The plan is based on 17 specific sustainable development goals.

Employment Insurance is an example of how Statistics Canada supports the reporting on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. This release will be used in helping to measure the following goal:

  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.

Regular EI benefits are paid 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 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.

Except for the data on fishing 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 2 to 8, 2018. 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 centered 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 January will be released on March 21.


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 Martha Patterson (613-299-3942;, Labour Statistics Division.

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