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Employment Insurance, January 2019

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Released: 2019-03-21

The number of people receiving regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits fell to 435,600 in January, down 9,800 (-2.2%) from December.

The majority of provinces had fewer EI beneficiaries in January, most notably Ontario (-5.6%), New Brunswick (-5.4%) and Quebec (-3.6%). There were also declines in Manitoba (-2.1%), Nova Scotia (-1.5%) and Prince Edward Island (-1.5%), while there was little change in Newfoundland and Labrador. In contrast, there were increases in Alberta (+4.3%), Saskatchewan (+2.2%) and British Columbia (+1.6%).

On a year-over-year basis, the number of EI beneficiaries in Canada was down 60,100 (-12.1%), with the decrease spread across all 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

The number of EI recipients in Ontario (107,100) fell for the second consecutive month in January, down 5.6% from December, with the decrease spread across the province. Virtually all of the census metropolitan areas (CMAs) had fewer beneficiaries, with the declines ranging from 3.3% in London to 9.7% in Windsor. In Toronto, the number of EI recipients fell by 4.3% to 39,500 in January. Year over year, Ontario had 16.0% fewer people receiving EI benefits. Over the same period, the unemployment rate in the province was little changed at 5.7% in January, as reported by the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

Following four consecutive monthly increases, the number of people receiving EI benefits in New Brunswick fell by 5.4% in January, driven by areas outside the CMAs and census agglomerations (CAs). The monthly decline brought the number of beneficiaries down 5.6% on a year-over-year basis to 29,600.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries by province, December 2018 to January 2019
Regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries by province, December 2018 to January 2019

There were 104,400 recipients of regular EI benefits in Quebec in January, down 3.6% from December. The bulk of the monthly decline was attributable to the CMAs—led by Ottawa–Gatineau (Quebec part) (-8.2%). Year over year, the number of EI recipients in Quebec declined by 10.2%.

Manitoba had 15,300 EI beneficiaries in January, down 2.1% from the previous month. Declines were reported throughout the province, with the CMA of Winnipeg (-2.8%) contributing the most to the monthly decrease. Compared with January 2018, the number of people receiving EI benefits in the province declined by 3.8%.

Nova Scotia had 26,500 EI recipients in January, down 1.5% from December. The bulk of the decrease was in the areas outside the CMA of Halifax and the CAs. The number of recipients in the province has held steady since the spring of 2018.

The number of EI recipients in Prince Edward Island fell by 1.5% to 8,100 in January, partly offsetting an increase the previous month. The decline in January was led by areas outside the CAs. While the number of beneficiaries was down on a year-over-year-basis (-1.0%), it has been trending up since the summer of 2018.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, 33,900 people received EI benefits in January, little changed from the previous month. The number of beneficiaries in the province has been trending downward since the summer of 2017, and was down 11.3% compared with January 2018. Over the same period, the unemployment rate in Newfoundland and Labrador fell from 14.2% to 11.4%, according to the LFS.

In contrast, Alberta had 50,900 people receiving EI benefits in January, up 4.3% compared with the previous month. Much of the increase was recorded across the CAs (+6.8%) and in the CMA of Calgary (+5.4%). This was the third consecutive monthly increase in the province and coincided with ongoing weakness in the oil industry. This increase was also spread across most occupational groups, notably natural and applied science occupations (+10.9%) and natural resources, agriculture and related production occupations (+9.5%). Despite the recent increases, Alberta had fewer beneficiaries on a year-over-year basis (-19.6%) and LFS data show the province's unemployment rate was little changed compared with 12 months earlier at 6.8%.

The number of EI beneficiaries in Saskatchewan rose for the second month in a row, up 2.2% to 16,100 in January. Most of this increase was in the CMA of Saskatoon (+4.3%). On a year-over-year basis, the number of EI recipients in the province decreased by 11.0%.

British Columbia had 39,500 EI recipients in January, up 1.6% from December. This was the third consecutive monthly increase in the province and was mostly attributable to the CMA of Kelowna (+7.1%) and the CAs (+3.4%). Compared with January 2018, British Columbia had 14.0% fewer EI beneficiaries.

Employment Insurance beneficiaries by occupation

Compared with December, the number of people receiving regular EI benefits in January fell in 5 of the 10 broad occupational groups. The largest monthly decrease was among those who were last employed in manufacturing and utilities occupations (-10.2%), with New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Quebec responsible for the bulk of the decline. There were also declines in trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations (-3.9%), natural and applied sciences (-2.5%), health occupations (-2.2%) as well as natural resources, agriculture and related production (-1.0%). At the same time, there were more beneficiaries among those who had last worked in art, culture, recreation and sport occupations (+2.5%), while there was little change in the remaining occupational groups.

Compared with January 2018, the number of beneficiaries fell in all broad occupational groups except art, culture, recreation and sport, where it was unchanged.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries by occupation, January 2018 to January 2019
Regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries by occupation, January 2018 to January 2019

Employment Insurance claims

In January, the number of EI claims decreased by 1.0% to 232,100. The number of claims provides an indication of the number of people who could become beneficiaries.

The largest percentage decreases in the month were in Newfoundland and Labrador (-6.4%) and New Brunswick (-5.5%). Declines were also observed in Saskatchewan (-2.6%), Quebec (-2.6%) and Nova Scotia (-2.1%).

Claims increased in Manitoba (+2.1%) and Ontario (+1.3%). There was little change in Alberta, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia.

Compared with January 2018, the number of claims fell by 1.4% at the national level, with the largest decreases in New Brunswick (-5.0%) and Ontario (-4.7%), followed by Quebec (-2.6%), British Columbia (-2.5%), Manitoba (-1.9%) and Nova Scotia (-1.6%).

By contrast, claims rose in Alberta (+10.0%), Newfoundland and Labrador (+8.9%), Prince Edward Island (+6.5%) and Saskatchewan (+2.2%).

Chart 4  Chart 4: Employment Insurance claims
Employment Insurance claims

Sustainable Development Goals

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

The 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.

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 13 to 19. 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 February will be released on April 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).

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 Lahouaria Yssaad (613-951-0627; ), Labour Statistics Division.

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