EI Claims Saw Massive Jumps In Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba

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OIL DERRICK ALBERTA
Dramatic sky over two pumpjacks in rural Alberta, Canada. | ronniechua via Getty Images
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More and more people in Canada's oil-dependent provinces are tapping into employment insurance (EI) to make ends meet.

That much is clear from a report released by Statistics Canada on Thursday. It showed the number of regular EI claimants up 6.7 per cent in the year to February, with oil regions leading the way.

Alberta EI claims grew by 78.9 per cent year over year in February 2016. EI claims also rose by 38.6 per cent in Saskatchewan and 12.9 per cent in Manitoba.

ei table
This chart shows the number of regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries across Canada. (Photo: Statistics Canada)

The number of Alberta men claiming EI almost doubled in a year (91.4 per cent), while female claimants rose by 54.7 per cent.

EI claims began rising in Alberta at the tail end of 2014, after oil prices started dropping from highs around $100 per barrel.

Compared to January, EI claims were up 2.4 per cent in the province, with the number of recipients growing in Calgary (2.5 per cent) and Edmonton (1.4 per cent).

Alberta's EI claimants form about three per cent of its labour force — the same as it was in 2009, when oil crashed following the financial meltdown, University of Calgary economics professor Trevor Tombe tweeted.

But he also posted a chart showing that that share is lower than it is for the rest of Canada.

Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan, the number of people receiving EI rose for the fourth straight month, jumping 3.5 per cent from January.

The Yukon saw the most dramatic decrease in EI claimants, dropping by 16.3 per cent year over year, followed by Quebec, where claims fell by 4.6 per cent.

Quebec's government announced last month that it had a $2 billion surplus, and would use the money to chip away at debt of $207.7 billion.

ei claims
This charts shows the total number of Employment Insurance claims up to February 2016. (Photo: Statistics Canada)

The trend comes as the federal government has introduced a measure that makes it easier for unemployed workers to claim EI in certain parts of the country.

Calgarians are eligible for the changes, but Edmontonians are not — an arrangement that had politicians complaining.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said residents of Edmonton should feel "fortunate" that circumstances aren't bad enough for the changes to apply to them.

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