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EI Benefits Decline Amid Rising Unemployment

January 19, 2012

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Today, Statistics Canada reported that the number of Canadians receiving Employment Insurance (EI) benefits fell for a third consecutive month in November. This decline would be good news if it reflected an improving labour market. Unfortunately, unemployment has also increased for three consecutive months.

The trend is a dwindling number of beneficiaries among a growing pool of jobless workers. An implication is that EI recipients are exhausting their benefits without finding jobs.

The proportion of unemployed Canadians receiving EI benefits fell to 38.6% in November (i.e. 539,010 beneficiaries out of 1,394,700 unemployed workers). Statistics Canada reported an especially large decline in Ontario, where just 27.0% of unemployed workers received benefits (i.e. 156,330 beneficiaries out of 579,800 unemployed workers).

The administration of EI has recently attracted negative attention. While administrative improvements are undoubtedly warranted, more substantive policy changes are needed to increase the accessibility and duration of benefits for workers unemployed due to global economic factors beyond their control.

Erin Weir is an economist with the United Steelworkers union and a CCPA research associate.

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