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Employment Insurance, February 2017

Released: 2017-04-20

The number of regular Employment Insurance (EI) beneficiaries fell by 11,700 (-2.1%) to 554,200 in February, similar to the level of June 2016—just before the administrative changes that took effect last July. Information on the 2016 EI changes is available on Employment and Social Development Canada's website.

The decrease in the number of beneficiaries in February 2017 was spread among the provinces in Central and Western Canada, namely Saskatchewan (-4.1%), Alberta (-3.6%), Quebec (-3.4%) and British Columbia (-2.1%), as well as Ontario (-1.8%) and Manitoba (-1.8%).

In contrast, the number of beneficiaries increased in Nova Scotia (+2.6%) and Prince Edward Island (+1.5%), while it was little changed in Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick.

Compared with February 2016, the number of regular EI beneficiaries in Canada edged up 0.7%.

In general, changes in the number of EI beneficiaries reflect various situations, including people becoming beneficiaries, those going back to work and those no longer receiving regular benefits.

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

Provincial and sub-provincial overview

The number of EI recipients in Saskatchewan fell for the fourth consecutive month, down 4.1% to 18,000 in February. The decrease was spread across the province, including the census metropolitan areas (CMAs) of Saskatoon (-3.3%) and Regina (-2.8%). In the 12 months to February, the number of beneficiaries in Saskatchewan was up 13.5%.

In Alberta, 88,500 people received benefits in February, down 3.6%. This was the second consecutive monthly decline for the province. All areas recorded decreases, including the CMAs of Calgary (-3.5%) and Edmonton (-1.4%). On a year-over-year basis, the number of beneficiaries in Alberta rose by 31.8%.

The number of EI beneficiaries in Quebec fell by 3.4% to 131,700 in February—the lowest level since the start of the series in 1997. The most recent downward trend in Quebec's beneficiaries, which began at the end of 2015, coincides with a downward trend in unemployment. All the province's CMAs recorded declines, ranging from 2.0% in Gatineau to 8.3% in Sherbrooke and in Trois-Rivières. In Montréal, the number of beneficiaries fell by 3.9% to 49,200, partly offsetting an increase from the previous month. In the 12 months to February, the number of beneficiaries in Quebec was down 10.5%.

Infographic 1  Thumbnail for Infographic 1: Unemployment and regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries, Quebec, February 2011 to February 2017
Unemployment and regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries, Quebec, February 2011 to February 2017 

In British Columbia, 53,500 people received benefits in February, down 2.1% from January. While the decline was spread across the province, most of it was recorded in areas outside the CMAs. Among the CMAs, however, Abbotsford–Mission showed the largest decrease (-5.3%), followed by Kelowna (-2.7%). In Vancouver, 17,300 people received benefits in February, unchanged from the previous month. Compared with 12 months earlier, the number of beneficiaries in British Columbia edged down (-0.9%).

Ontario had 134,900 people receiving benefits in February, down 1.8% from the previous month. The majority of CMAs showed decreases, most notably Thunder Bay (-5.4%). In contrast, the number of beneficiaries rose in Oshawa (+3.5%) and Windsor (+1.3%). In Toronto, the number of EI recipients was little changed at 49,600. In the 12 months to February, Ontario recorded a decrease of 7.1% in the number of beneficiaries.

The number of EI beneficiaries in Manitoba also fell by 1.8%, to 15,700 in February. Most of the decline was recorded outside the CMA of Winnipeg. In the 12 months to February, the number of EI recipients in the province was virtually unchanged.

In Nova Scotia, 29,500 people received benefits, up 2.6% in February, with nearly all the increase occurring outside the CMA of Halifax and the census agglomerations. Compared with February 2016, the number of beneficiaries in Nova Scotia was up 5.9%.

The number of EI recipients in Prince Edward Island rose by 1.5% to 8,100 in February, continuing an upward trend that began at the end of 2014. Compared with February 2016, the number of beneficiaries in the province was up 5.6%.

There was virtually no change in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, but the CMA of St. John's recorded a small increase (+1.0%) in the number of EI recipients. Likewise, little change was recorded in New Brunswick overall, but increases were observed in the CMAs of Saint John (+3.5%) and Moncton (+1.3%).

Employment Insurance beneficiaries by occupation

In the 12 months to February, the number of EI beneficiaries rose in 6 of the 10 major occupational groups, most notably art, culture, recreation and sport (+12.8%), management (+7.5%) and health (+6.2%). On the other hand, there were fewer beneficiaries whose last job was in manufacturing and utilities (-5.2%) and in education, law and social, community and government services (-2.7%).

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

Employment Insurance claims

Following a decrease in January, EI claims rose by 1.7% (+3,800) to 230,000 in February. Compared with 12 months earlier, EI claims were down 4.3%.

The largest monthly increase in claims in February was recorded in Newfoundland and Labrador (+21.8%). This was also the second consecutive monthly increase and may reflect the impact of the end of some major development projects. Employment in the province has been on a downward trend since early 2013.

The number of claims also rose in Manitoba (+4.9%), Saskatchewan (+4.9%), New Brunswick (+4.4%), Quebec (+2.1%) and Prince Edward Island (+2.1%). Overall, claims in most of these provinces have been trending downward in recent months. In Quebec, claims have been edging down slightly.

On the other hand, claims fell in Nova Scotia (-1.8%), while they were essentially unchanged in Alberta and Ontario. Similarly, British Columbia showed no change in claims in February, following a marked decrease in January.

The number of claims provides an indication of the number of people who could become beneficiaries.

Chart 3  Chart 3: 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.

Unemployment Insurance Act, 1971

While the Employment Insurance program has undergone various changes since its inception in 1940, significant modifications were introduced in the 1971 Unemployment Insurance Act. The aim of this Act was to help Canadians cope with interruptions in earnings and assist them in entering or re-entering the labour market. The legislation provided greater coverage, eased eligibility, and added new, special benefits in case of sickness, maternity and retirement.

To be eligible for regular benefits (benefits related to job loss), claimants needed to show they were unemployed and had worked a minimum of eight weeks in insurable employment during the qualifying period. Regular benefits became payable after a two-week waiting period if the claimant was unable to find employment and was available for and capable of work.

In 1970, prior to the 1971 Unemployment Insurance Act, the total number of beneficiaries (recipients of all income support benefits, regular and special) was 385,000. By 1975, the number had increased 60% to 617,000. In 2016, it was 821,000.

For more information, see "Unemployment Insurance Statistics, 1995", Catalogue no. 73-202S, and Historical Statistics of Canada, 1983 (Catalogue number11-516-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 was 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 February 12 to 18. 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 March will be released on May 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 Marton Lovei (613-240-3623; or Client Services (toll free: 1-866-873-8788;, Labour Statistics Division.

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