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Employment Insurance, May 2017

Released: 2017-07-20

In May, 525,300 people received regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, down 12,800 (-2.4%) from April. This continues a downward trend that began in late autumn 2016, reflecting the relative strength observed in the economy.

Eight provinces recorded decreases in the number of beneficiaries, led by Alberta (-7.2%). Declines also occurred in British Columbia (-3.5%), Prince Edward Island (-3.3%), Nova Scotia (-2.8%), New Brunswick (-2.1%) and Quebec (-1.9%), as well as in Ontario (-1.3%) and Manitoba (-1.3%). On the other hand, beneficiaries increased in Newfoundland and Labrador (+2.7%), while they were little changed in Saskatchewan.

Compared with May 2016, the number of EI recipients declined by 4.9%, largely the result of decreases in Quebec, Alberta and Ontario. This is the second year-over-year decline observed since December 2014.

In general, changes in the number of 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

In May, 72,000 people received regular EI benefits in Alberta, down 7.2% from the previous month. EI recipients in the province have been declining since December 2016, coinciding with improved labour market conditions after the downturn in oil prices. Data from the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey show that job vacancies in Alberta rose 9.3% on a year-over-year basis in the first quarter of 2017, the first increase since the first quarter of 2015, when data collection for the survey began. All areas in Alberta recorded decreases in the number of beneficiaries in May, including the census metropolitan areas (CMAs) of Edmonton (-7.5%) and Calgary (-6.9%).

In the 12 months to May, the number of EI recipients in Alberta declined by 11.1%—the first year-over-year decrease in the province since November 2014, when the downturn in oil prices began. The size of this decline is partly attributable to an atypical increase in beneficiaries in northern Alberta in May 2016, associated with the wildfires and evacuation of residents in that area. Over one-third (34.6%) of the decline in beneficiaries in the 12 months to May occurred in the census agglomeration (CA) of Wood Buffalo.

The number of beneficiaries in British Columbia fell 3.5% from the previous month to 50,900 in May. Declines were spread across the province, most notably in the CMAs of Abbotsford–Mission (-8.7%), Victoria (-3.7%) and Vancouver (-3.2%). Compared with May 2016, EI recipients declined 5.1%. The number of beneficiaries in British Columbia has been on a downward trend since November 2016. According to data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), employment in the province grew by 4.2% on a year-over-year basis, continuing an upward trend that began in spring 2015.

In Prince Edward Island, 7,700 people received benefits in May, down 3.3% from the previous month. Declines were observed throughout the province, driven by decreases in the CAs (-6.0%). Prince Edward Island was one of three provinces to post year-over-year increases, with a 3.4% rise in beneficiaries compared with May 2016.

In May, the number of people receiving benefits in Nova Scotia was down 2.8% to 27,300, a third consecutive monthly decline. Decreases were spread across the province, notably in the CMA of Halifax (-4.6%) and the CAs (-4.0%).

The number of beneficiaries in New Brunswick fell 2.1% to 32,000 in May. Declines occurred in the CMA of Moncton (-4.7%), the CAs (-3.7%) and areas outside the CMAs and CAs (-1.3%). In the 12 months to May, the number of beneficiaries declined by 1.1%, the first notable year-over-year decline since May 2016.

In Quebec, 129,800 people received benefits in May, down 1.9% from the previous month, continuing a downward trend that began last summer. Data from the LFS show that employment in the province has been on an upward trend since summer 2016, growing 2.0% on a year-over-year basis in May. The reduction in beneficiaries in May was driven by decreases in the CMAs, particularly Québec (-3.4%) and Montréal (-2.6%), which accounted for about two-thirds of the decline. Compared with May 2016, the number of beneficiaries in the province decreased by 8.8%. Among the provinces, Quebec had the second largest year-over-year decline, after Alberta.

The number of beneficiaries in Ontario decreased 1.3% from the previous month to 130,300 in May. There were declines in the CMAs of Brantford (-5.7%), Windsor (-4.0%) and Toronto (-3.5%), while there were increases in St. Catharines–Niagara (+5.5%), Thunder Bay (+4.2%), and Peterborough (+3.1%). From May 2016 to May 2017, the number of EI recipients in the province declined by 6.3%.

In Manitoba, 15,000 people received benefits in May, down 1.3% from the previous month. Most of the decline occurred in the CMA of Winnipeg (-3.3%). Compared with 12 months earlier, the number of beneficiaries in the province declined by 2.1%.

In May, the number of EI recipients in Newfoundland and Labrador rose 2.7% from the previous month to 39,400. Newfoundland and Labrador was the sole province to record an increase in beneficiaries in the month. Increases were observed throughout the province, with areas outside the CMA of St. John's and the CAs (+2.6%) accounting for most of the rise. On a year-over-year basis, the number of beneficiaries in Newfoundland and Labrador was up 12.8%, the largest increase among the provinces.

In Saskatchewan, the number of beneficiaries was little changed in May, although it was up 11.9% on a year-over-year basis.

Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador were particularly affected by the downturn in oil prices that began in late 2014. However, while the number of beneficiaries in Alberta has been trending downward, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador have not seen similar declines.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Beneficiaries in Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the rest of Canada
Beneficiaries in Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the rest of Canada

Employment Insurance beneficiaries by occupation

In the 12 months to May, the number of beneficiaries fell in 5 of the 10 broad occupational groups. The decrease was led by natural and applied sciences and related occupations (-10.8%); trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations (-9.2%); and manufacturing and utilities occupations (-8.8%). There were also declines in natural resources, agriculture and related production occupations (-4.3%) and in business, finance and administration occupations (-3.0%).

On the other hand, there were increases in the number of beneficiaries whose last job was in art, culture, recreation and sport occupations (+10.3%) and in education, law and social, community and government services occupations (+5.0%). The remaining occupational groups were little changed.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries by occupation, May 2016 to May 2017
Regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries by occupation, May 2016 to May 2017

Employment Insurance beneficiaries in major demographic groups

In May, all major demographic groups recorded decreases in the number of beneficiaries compared with the previous month, except for women aged 55 years and over, among whom there was little change. For men, there were fewer beneficiaries in all age groups, most notably for youth aged 15 to 24 (-3.3%) and men aged 25 to 54 (-3.1%). Among women, there were decreases for those aged 15 to 24 (-5.0%) and those aged 25 to 54 (-2.1%).

In the 12 months to May, the number of beneficiaries who were aged 55 years and over increased for both women (+8.5%) and men (+2.9%). On the other hand, the number of people receiving benefits declined for men aged 15 to 24 (-14.0%) and those aged 25 to 54 (-10.4%). There were fewer female beneficiaries aged 25 to 54 (-2.5%), while the number of beneficiaries for those aged 15 to 24 was unchanged.

Employment Insurance claims

The number of EI claims totalled 229,100 in May, down 4.4% from April and largely offsetting increases seen in that month. The number of claims provides an indication of the number of people who could become beneficiaries.

In May, the number of claims declined in seven provinces, driven by Newfoundland and Labrador (-31.3%). Smaller decreases occurred in Saskatchewan (-9.7%), Alberta (-6.1%) and Ontario (-4.2%).

On the other hand, the number of EI claims increased in Manitoba (+5.5%), Prince Edward Island (+3.5%) and New Brunswick (+1.7%).

Compared with 12 months earlier, EI claims were down 15.1% at the national level. The decrease largely reflects the sudden increase in claims that occurred in May 2016 due to the wildfires in northern Alberta, leading to the mandatory evacuation of Fort McMurray residents.

Chart 4  Chart 4: 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.

The distribution of beneficiaries by sex and the impact of economic downturns

For a variety of reasons, men have historically been more likely than women to receive regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. The proportion of men and women receiving benefits also varies with the business cycle. Men tend to be harder hit by recessions than women, as men are over-represented in the goods-producing sector, which is more affected than the service-producing sector. Goods-producing industries, particularly manufacturing, tend to be more cyclical than the rest of the economy, growing faster during periods of expansion and growing slower or declining more when the economy contracts. For this reason, during economic downturns, the proportion of men receiving benefits increases to a greater extent than the proportion of women.

In 1979, as the economy was expanding, 59.1% of beneficiaries were men, while 40.9% were women. On the other hand, during the recession of the early 1980s, the proportion of men receiving benefits increased from 60.2% in 1981 to 63.2% in 1982. The share of women who were beneficiaries fell from 39.8% to 36.8% over that same period. Similar changes were observed during the 2008-2009 recession, when men's share of beneficiaries rose from 60.9% in 2008 to 64.3% in 2009—the largest year-over-year change since 1975. At the same time, the proportion of women receiving benefits declined from 39.1% to 35.7%.

The fall in oil prices that began in 2014 had an effect on the proportion of men receiving benefits similar to that of the 2008-2009 recession, most notably in Alberta. In 2014, men accounted for 62.1% of beneficiaries in Alberta while women accounted for 37.9%. During the period from 2014 to 2016, the share of male beneficiaries increased by 7.4 percentage points in Alberta, while the proportional drop for women was about the same, the largest percentage point changes among the provinces. In 2016, men represented 69.4% of those receiving benefits in Alberta, while women represented 30.6%.

Sources: "Canada's employment downturn." Perspectives on Labour and Income (Catalogue number75-001-X); "The Canadian Manufacturing Sector: Adapting to Challenges." Economic Analysis Research Paper Series (Catalogue number11F0027M); "The Service Economy." National Bureau of Economic Research; "Women and Paid Work." Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report (Catalogue number89-503-X); "Workers laid off during the last three recessions: Who were they, and how did they fare?" Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series (Catalogue number11F0019M); and CANSIM table 276-0020 (seasonally unadjusted data).

Chart 5  Chart 5: Proportion of Employment Insurance beneficiaries by sex, 1976 to 2016
Proportion of Employment Insurance beneficiaries by sex, 1976 to 2016 





  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 by 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 were 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 because 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 May 14 to 20. 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 June will be released on August 24.

Products

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; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca).

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Marton Lovei (613-240-3623; marton.lovei@canada.ca) or Client Services (toll free: 1-866-873-8788; statcan.labour-travail.statcan@canada.ca), Labour Statistics Division.

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