In February, 388,000 Canadians received regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, up by 11,000 (+3.0%) from January. This was the first monthly increase since July 2022, reported Statistics Canada on Thursday.
“Despite the increase, the number of regular EI recipients in February 2023 was the second lowest on record (outside of the period when the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit was in place from March to September 2020), following the record low of January 2023,” said the federal agency.
“According to the Labour Force Survey, the unemployment rate held steady at 5.0% in February, just shy of the record-low 4.9% observed in June and July of 2022.
“In general, variations in the number of beneficiaries can reflect several changes in circumstances, including those becoming beneficiaries, those going back to work, those exhausting their regular benefits, and those no longer receiving benefits for other reasons. It is also possible to work part-time while receiving EI benefits (Working While on Claim). In February, most (89.3%) regular EI recipients had no declared earnings, up slightly from a year earlier (87.7%).”
StatsCan said the monthly increase in the number of people receiving regular EI benefits at the national level was driven by gains in Ontario (+14.8%; +15,000). This was the first increase in Ontario since October 2022. The increase in regular EI recipients was spread across the province, with the largest proportional increases in the census metropolitan areas (CMAs) of Windsor (+136.7%; +3,800), Hamilton (+42.7%; +1,800) and Oshawa (+24.1%; +600). On a year-over-year basis, the number of regular EI recipients in Ontario was lower than in February 2022 (-29.6%; -48,000).
“Following declines in January, the number of people receiving regular EI benefits increased across all age groups in February. The number of beneficiaries grew for men (+3.0%; +7,100) and women (+3.0%; +4,300). Men comprised 62.7% of people collecting regular EI benefits in February,” said the federal agency.
“Youth aged 15 to 24 years old had the largest proportional increase in the number of EI beneficiaries (+11.3%; +3,300) in February, partially offsetting a decrease in January. Year-over-year, young women (-68.4%; -21,000) and young men (-46.6%; -20,000) had larger proportional declines in their number of regular EI beneficiaries compared with other age groups.
“The number of core-aged (25 to 54 years) people receiving regular EI benefits rose 1.8% (+4,200) in February. In this age group, an increase in the number of beneficiaries in Ontario was partially offset by declines in other provinces. Among people aged 55 years and older, the number of regular EI beneficiaries rose in February (+3.5%; +3,900).”
(Mario Toneguzzi is Managing Editor of Canada’s Podcast. He has more than 40 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald, covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He works as well as a freelance writer for several national publications and as a consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named in 2021 as one of the Top 10 Business Journalists in the World by PR News – the only Canadian to make the list)
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