04/23/2015 02:11 EDT | Updated 06/23/2015 05:59 EDT

Employment Insurance Claims In Alberta Rise Almost 30 Per Cent

The number of Albertans applying for employment insurance rose almost 30 per cent in February, Statistics Canada reported Thursday.

EI claims, which indicate how many people could receive the benefits in the future, rose 29.4 per cent in the province from January. That compared with a national increase of 6.7 per cent.

Across Canada, the number of people actually receiving employment insurance benefits increased by two per cent to 509,300 people in February. In Alberta, 36,000 people received employment insurance, an increase of 15.6 per cent from the previous month.

It was the largest monthly increase in Alberta since 2009, and the fourth consecutive monthly increase for the province. Hardest hit were Albertans working in primary industry, processing, manufacturing and utilities; natural and applied sciences; and management, Statistics Canada said.

This came as no surprise to economists watching the job market in Alberta. Between January and February, the unemployment rate in the province rose from 4.5 per cent to 5.3 per cent.

"We'll see continuing claims in Alberta for employment insurance benefits," said Janice Plumstead, senior economist with the Canada West Foundation. 

"We should see something again in March and April and, assuming that we don't see any more layoffs, that will probably level out in the next few months."

"But I don't think we're through it yet — not until we see the price of oil stabilize or start to increase."

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