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EI Coverage Falls Below 40%

December 16, 2011

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It may be a grim Christmas for thousands of unemployed Canadians. Today’s Employment Insurance figures show that fewer workers received benefits in October, even as more became unemployed and filed EI claims.

Specifically, the number of people receiving regular benefits declined from 546,580 in September to 541,230 in October. The Labour Force Survey indicates that unemployment rose from 1,334,200 in September to 1,374,200 in October. Therefore, only 39% of unemployed Canadians got benefits (i.e. 541,230/1,374,200 = 0.39).

The situation was even worse in Ontario, which had only 159,630 beneficiaries out of 592,700 unemployed workers. In other words, scarcely more than one-quarter of unemployed Ontarians received benefits (i.e. 159,630/592,700 = 0.27).

Statistics Canada has already reported that national unemployment rose further in November, due to economic factors beyond the control of Canadian workers. The EI system’s apparent inadequacy should be a major concern. The labour movement has long proposed to help more jobless workers by improving the accessibility and duration of EI benefits.

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

UPDATE (December 17): Quoted in The Hamilton Spectator (page T7).

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