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The number of jobless Albertans collecting federal employment insurance benefits (E.I.) grew to new heights in July.
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Nick Ford • Economist September 22, 2016
E.I. claims grow to new heights
The number of jobless Albertans collecting federal employment insurance benefits (E.I.) grew to new heights in July. In the most recent report from Statistics Canada, 99,320 Albertans collected regular E.I. cheques (seasonally adjusted, and excluding special benefits such as maternity or disability benefits). That’s nearly double last year’s July number and 41 per cent higher than 2009’s peak (see chart below).
 
A large portion of our province’s increase had to do with the federal government’s legislative changes that came into effect in July. One such change reduced the 910-hour threshold for new entrants/re-entrants. All workers within a region will have the same entrance requirements—between 420 hours and 700 hours, depending on the local unemployment rate.
 
Another significant change was regarding the duration of E.I. regular benefits, it was extended by five weeks, up to a maximum of 50 weeks of benefits (but only for eligible claimants in the 12 economic regions with the sharpest increases in unemployment).
 
Both of these changes affected 15 different regions. In Alberta’s case, this consisted of Southern Alberta, Northern Alberta, Calgary and Edmonton.
 
Another reason for the increase, of course, had to do with Alberta’s pained labour market. In July, our province only shed 1,400 jobs. While not many jobs were lost, there was a surge in the size of the labour force (that is, the number of adults working or looking for work). As a result, the unemployment rate shot up from 7.9 per cent in June to 8.6 per cent in July (seasonally adjusted), the highest in over 20 years.
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