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Employment Insurance, August 2017

Released: 2017-10-19

The number of regular Employment Insurance (EI) beneficiaries decreased by 9,600 (-1.8%) to 524,200 in August. This decline continues a downward trend that began in October 2016.

The number of beneficiaries fell in eight provinces, led by Manitoba (-8.0%) and Alberta (-4.0%). There were also declines in Prince Edward Island (-2.6%), New Brunswick (-2.0%), Newfoundland and Labrador (-1.9%), Ontario (-1.5%), Nova Scotia (-1.2%) and Quebec (-1.1%). The number of EI beneficiaries increased in Saskatchewan (+1.9%), while it was little changed in British Columbia.

In general, changes in the number of beneficiaries can reflect a number of different circumstances, including people becoming beneficiaries, those going back to work, those exhausting their regular benefits, and those no longer receiving benefits for other reasons.

Compared with August 2016, the number of EI recipients in Canada declined by 8.0%. Following the EI policy changes that came into effect in July 2016, the number of beneficiaries was unusually high in the latter half of 2016. These policy changes eliminated higher eligibility requirements for new entrants and re-entrants to the labour market, simplified job-search responsibilities for beneficiaries, and extended the duration of EI benefits for regions affected by the 2014-2016 commodities downturn. Consequently, historical comparisons with August 2016 are not recommended, and the rest of this analysis focuses on month-to-month changes.

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

Provincial and sub-provincial overview

Following a notable increase in July, the number of beneficiaries in Manitoba declined 8.0% to 15,600 in August. The decrease was driven largely by the census metropolitan area (CMA) of Winnipeg (-10.8%).

In Alberta, 67,200 people received benefits in August, down 4.0% from the previous month. The number of beneficiaries in the province has been on a downward trend since the end of 2016. Within Alberta, the declines were spread across the province, including Edmonton (-4.1%) and Calgary (-3.0%).

The number of beneficiaries in Prince Edward Island decreased 2.6% to 7,600 in August, with declines spread across the province.

In New Brunswick, the number of EI recipients was down 2.0% to 31,800. Within the province, there were fewer people receiving EI benefits in Saint John (-3.9%) as well as in areas outside the CMAs and census agglomerations (CAs) (-2.4%).

There were 39,100 EI recipients in Newfoundland and Labrador, down 1.9%. While St. John's (-1.3%) had fewer people receiving benefits, most of the decline was observed in areas outside of the CMA and CAs (-2.2%).

The number of beneficiaries in Ontario decreased 1.5% to 133,100 in August, offsetting the increase observed in July. There were decreases in 8 of 15 CMAs in the province, led by Windsor (-11.0%), Peterborough (-6.3%) and St. Catharines–Niagara (-5.7%).

Nova Scotia had 27,600 people receiving benefits in August, down 1.2% from the previous month. In Halifax, the number of beneficiaries decreased by 3.2%.

In Quebec, the number of beneficiaries declined by 1.1% to 130,900. There were declines in Ottawa–Gatineau (Quebec part) (-4.0%) as well as in the CAs (-2.8%), while in Montréal the number of beneficiaries edged down.

Saskatchewan had more EI beneficiaries in August, up 1.9% to 18,400. Most of the increase was observed in areas outside of CMAs and CAs (+2.7%).

Although the number of EI recipients was little changed in British Columbia, this was not the case for some areas within the province. There were fewer beneficiaries in Abbotsford–Mission (-12.0%) and Kelowna (-1.7%).

Employment Insurance beneficiaries in major demographic groups

In August, all major demographic groups had fewer beneficiaries compared with the previous month, except for men aged 15 to 24, among whom there was little change. The overall decline was 3.0% for women and 1.0% for men.

Employment Insurance claims

Following an increase in July, the number of EI claims decreased 4.9% to 234,300 in August. The number of claims provides an indication of the number of people who could become beneficiaries.

Among the provinces, claims declined the most in British Columbia, down 16.9% in August. In July, there was a notable increase in the number of claims in the province, which may reflect the forest fires that prompted the declaration of a provincial state of emergency from July 7 to September 15. The decline in August mostly offsets the increase observed in July.

The number of EI claims also decreased in Ontario (-9.4%), Saskatchewan (-6.5%), Manitoba (-3.6%), Alberta (-2.0%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (-1.2%). On the other hand, there were more claims in New Brunswick (+6.2%), Prince Edward Island (+2.9%), Quebec (+1.8%) and Nova Scotia (+1.7%).

Chart 2  Chart 2: 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.

Employment Insurance benefits for fishers

Under Canada's Employment Insurance (EI) program, self-employed fishers have access to benefits similar to the regular benefits available to other employees. Fishing benefits in Canada began in the late 1950s. Under the former name of Unemployment Insurance, the benefits for self-employed fishers came into law in 1956, with coverage beginning in April 1957 and the first payable benefits in April 1958.

While eligibility for regular benefits is based on the number of insurable hours worked, eligibility for fishing benefits is based on the amount of insurable earnings obtained from fishing activities. Eligible fishers may receive up to 26 weeks of fishing benefits for each of the winter and summer fishing seasons.

With comparable data going back to 1989, the average monthly number of fishing benefit recipients for each year has fluctuated from a low of about 9,800 in 1996 to a high of 17,800 in 1989.

Since 2010, the number has been relatively stable between 11,000 and 12,000. Over the last two decades, fishing benefit recipients have consistently accounted for less than 2% of all EI recipients in an average month (1.4% in 2016).

Provincial data show the significant impact of the cod fishing moratorium issued in 1992 on the fishing industry. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the average number of monthly fishing benefit recipients fell by 54% from 1991 to 1993, reflecting the decline in fishing activities necessary to qualify for the fishing benefits. After the large decline, the average number of monthly fishing beneficiaries in the province remained relatively stable for a few years, until it began increasing from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. Smaller, yet still notable, declines were observed in Nova Scotia and British Columbia in the mid- to late-1990s.

In 2016, Newfoundland and Labrador had the largest share of fishing benefit recipients in an average month (41% of all fishing benefit recipients in Canada), followed by Nova Scotia (19%), British Columbia (11%), New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (10% each).

Source: Employment and Social Development Canada. 2017. Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment, 2015/2016. Ottawa, and CANSIM tables 276-0001 and 276-0020.

  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 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 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 August 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 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 September will be released on November 23.


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 Gordon Song (613-793-2392; or Client Services (toll free: 1-866-873-8788;, Labour Statistics Division.

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