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Employment Insurance, October 2020

Released: 2020-12-17

Employment Insurance (EI) statistics are now available for the month of October.

EI statistics complement information available from other sources—notably the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH)—and contribute to a fuller understanding of labour market conditions in Canada. New indicators, such as the proportion of regular EI beneficiaries who qualified under new rules introduced on September 27, 2020, and the number of beneficiaries by industry, are particularly valuable in understanding the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on Canadian workers and employers.

October results reflect labour market conditions as of the week of October 11 to 17. By then, several provinces had tightened public health measures in response to increases in COVID-19 cases. Unlike the widespread economic shutdown implemented in March and April, these measures were targeted at businesses where the risk of COVID transmission is greatest, including indoor restaurants, bars and recreational facilities.

The release of the Employment Insurance Statistics (EIS) program was suspended from March to September. During this period, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was introduced and the number of EI recipients dropped significantly. EI statistics for this period are also now available. CERB data will be featured in future Statistics Canada analytical and research products.

Record number of regular EI beneficiaries in October

In October, on a seasonally adjusted basis, 1.4 million Canadians received regular EI benefits, more than triple the number in February (446,000). This was the highest number of EI recipients in Canada since comparable data became available in 1997. In comparison, immediately following the recession of 2008/2009, the number of EI beneficiaries peaked at 822,000 in June 2009.

To support Canadians facing the labour market impact of the COVID-19 economic shutdown, CERB was introduced in March 2020. The number of regular EI beneficiaries increased in March and April, as those with active claims remained in the EI program. It then declined sharply beginning in May, as all new claims were redirected to CERB, and reached a low of 160,000 in August.

Results from the LFS indicate there were 1.8 million unemployed in October, including 1.5 million who were looking for work and 300,000 who had a connection to a job, either because they were on temporary layoff or had arrangements to begin a new job in the near future.

Infographic 1  Thumbnail for Infographic 1: Record number of regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries in October
Record number of regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries in October

Changes to the EI program lead to increases in the number of regular EI beneficiaries

On September 27, 2020, the Government of Canada introduced temporary changes to the EI program to facilitate the transition of CERB recipients to EI and to increase EI eligibility. These new measures included a reduction in the number of insured hours required to qualify for regular EI benefits.

In October, 11.2% of regular EI recipients qualified under these new EI rules and would not have qualified under the previous rules (not seasonally adjusted). The province of Quebec had the highest share of EI beneficiaries qualifying under the new EI rules, at 14.3%, driven by higher proportions in the census metropolitan areas (CMAs) of Trois-Rivières (20.1%), Saguenay (19.8%) and Québec (18.6%). The most recent results from the LFS indicate that, after five consecutive months of gains, employment in Quebec was little changed in October and November.

New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan also had proportions of EI beneficiaries who qualified under new rules which exceeded the national average, while Alberta recorded the lowest proportion (8.1%) of all provinces.

The proportion of recipients qualifying under the new EI rules was highest among youth aged 15 to 24 (19.1%). As youth are less likely to be employed full-time, they would previously have been less likely to have the amount of insurable hours required to qualify for EI. According to results from the LFS, employment remained furthest from pre-pandemic levels among youth in October.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Percentage of regular EI beneficiaries qualifying under the new EI rules introduced in September 2020, October 2020, not seasonally adjusted
Percentage of regular EI beneficiaries qualifying under the new EI rules introduced in September 2020, October 2020, not seasonally adjusted

Largest increases in EI beneficiaries among census metropolitan areas

The number of overall regular EI beneficiaries increased in all provinces from February to October, led by British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. While each of the four Atlantic provinces saw more modest increases in EI beneficiaries over this period, they led all provinces in October in the number of EI beneficiaries as a proportion of the total labour force. Outside of the Atlantic provinces, Alberta had the highest proportion of beneficiaries relative to their labour force, while Manitoba had the lowest.

Compared with October 2019, the number of EI beneficiaries in all provinces increased proportionally more in the services-producing sector than in the goods-producing sector (not seasonally adjusted).

New EI beneficiary data provide additional insight into differences in the impact of COVID-19 on regional labour markets across Canada. The increase in the number of EI beneficiaries from February to October was proportionally greater in CMAs and census agglomerations (CAs) (+269%; +804,000) than in areas outside of CMAs/CAs (+70.5%; +104,000). As a result, the geographic distribution of beneficiaries within provinces shifted over the same period. Within British Columbia, for example, the CMA of Vancouver accounted for more than one-half of recipients (55.2%) in October, compared with just over one-third (34.7%) in February.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Atlantic provinces have highest proportion of regular EI beneficiaries relative to their labour force
Atlantic provinces have highest proportion of regular EI beneficiaries relative to their labour force

Women now account for half of all regular EI beneficiaries

Prior to the initial COVID-19 economic shutdown, women made up a lower proportion (37.3%) of regular EI recipients than men (62.7%) in February. Following cumulative February-to-October increases of 508,000 (+305%), women accounted for 49.8% of regular EI beneficiaries in October, the first time they have accounted for half of beneficiaries since comparable data became available in 1997. From February to October, the number of regular beneficiaries increased by 400,000 (+143%) among men. Results from the LFS indicate that women accounted for a disproportionate share of the job losses at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

The number of youth aged 15 to 24 receiving regular EI benefits increased by 137,000 from February to October, including increases of 72,000 (+597%) among young women and 64,000 (+226%) among young men. LFS results indicate that, as of October, employment remained farther from pre-COVID February levels among young women (-11.5%) than among all other major demographic groups.

The proportion of EI recipients who qualified under the new rules introduced in September 2020 was higher among women (11.8%) than men (10.6%). A similar pattern was observed among youth, with young women being more likely to qualify under the new rules than young men (20.0% versus 18.3%).

Chart 3  Chart 3: Women now account for half of regular EI beneficiaries
Women now account for half of regular EI beneficiaries

Looking ahead

As both workers and industries continue to adapt to the new realities associated with COVID-19 over the coming months, EIS, in combination with the LFS, the SEPH and the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey, will be an important source of insights on sectoral and economy-wide labour market conditions in Canada.

In October, 32.8% of all regular EI beneficiaries last worked in three industries hardest-hit by public health measures, including accommodation and food services (18.3%); retail trade (10.5%); and arts, entertainment and recreation (4.0%) (not seasonally adjusted). Future shifts in the distribution of beneficiaries by industry and occupation will be an indication of the extent to which labour demand has recovered in these industries, as well as the ability of workers from these industries to find their way back to employment.

Similarly, in October almost 7 in 10 (67.2%) regular EI beneficiaries had not made a previous paid claim within the last 5 years, compared with just over 4 in 10 (42.2%) at the same period last year, reflecting the widespread labour market impact of the COVID-19 economic shutdown. Future changes in this indicator will contribute to an understanding of the ability of Canadian workers to recover from these impacts and avoid future spells of unemployment.

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 statistics are 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

Employment Insurance in the context of broader COVID-19 benefit programs

No methodological changes were made to the Employment Insurance Statistics (EIS) program over the COVID-19 period. EIS reflect the Employment Insurance program for the Labour Force Survey (LFS) reference week in each month.

Data for the October 2020 reference period and onward consist of individuals who obtained EI benefits, and exclude beneficiaries of the Canada Recovery Benefits (Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB), and Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)).

Concepts and methodology

The analysis presented here focuses on people who received regular 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 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 jobs voluntarily or those who did not accumulate enough hours of work to receive benefits.

All data in this release are seasonally adjusted, unless otherwise specified. Values for all series from March to October 2020 have been treated as outliers in the determination of a seasonal pattern for seasonal adjustment. For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally adjusted data – Frequently asked questions.

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

The number of regular EI beneficiaries and the number of claims received for the current month and the previous month are subject to revision.

The number of beneficiaries is a measure of all people who received EI benefits from October 11 to 17. This period coincides with the reference week of the LFS. However, claims data are for the entire month.

New indicators for October 2020

1. Beneficiaries who qualified for EI under the new EI rules introduced in September 2020

Temporary changes to the EI program that provided all new regular EI beneficiaries with a one-time credit of 300 insurable hours were introduced on September 27, 2020. In addition, the unemployment rate used to calculate their eligibility and entitlement weeks was 13.1%, unless their region's unemployment rate was higher.

This supplementary indicator presents the number of individuals that only qualified for EI in October 2020 as a result of these program changes.

2. Beneficiaries who have not made a previous paid claim within the last five years

The indicator of whether a beneficiary has made a previous paid claim in the past five years is based only on claims for EI. Whether or not the beneficiary received CERB payments between March and September 2020 is not used in the calculation of this indicator.

3. EI beneficiaries by industry

The industry of EI beneficiaries is determined through the integration of EI and Record of Employment (ROE) administrative data. For beneficiaries with more than one record of employment in the past 52 weeks, the records with the greatest number of hours are used. If no industry information can be found, industry information is deemed "Not classified" for the beneficiary.

Geographical definitions

A census metropolitan area (CMA) or 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 2016 – definitions for more information.

Data availability

A number of CODR data tables published on the Statistics Canada website remain suspended with the release of the October 2020 data.

14-10-0336 and 14-10-0337: remain suspended, as of the December 2019 reference period, due to occupational coding issues from the source data file. Work is on-going to identify a solution and continue publication of the tables.

14-10-0004, 14-10-0005, 14-10-0007, and 14-10-0008: remain suspended, as of the March 2020 reference period, due to a source data file containing records for CERB claimants and beneficiaries that could not be identified and excluded through processing.

14-10-0009: for the March to September reference periods, sub-aggregates of the parent "regular benefits" benefit type have been suppressed due to data quality.

Next release

Data on EI for November 2020 will be released on January 21, 2021.


More information about the concepts and use of Employment Insurance statistics is available in the Guide to Employment Insurance Statistics (Catalogue number73-506-G).

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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