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New data show that the number of Albertans receiving E.I. cheques climbed to 96,890 in November. With the exception of July of 2016—November is a new record-setting month.
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ATB Financial's Economics & Research Team January 18, 2017
Jobless benefits climb to near-record high
Simply paying bills and buying groceries has become a challenge for thousands of jobless Albertans. Employment insurance (E.I.) benefits—while providing less than what a paycheque would have—can at least help those households get by.
 
New data show that the number of Albertans receiving E.I. cheques climbed to 96,890 in November. With the exception of July of 2016—which saw a sudden spike in recipients to over 100,000 due to the lag impact of the forest fires earlier last summer—November is a new record-setting month. All of this adds up to a discouraging take on the employment situation.
 
But there may be some positive news here. Employment insurance benefits are a lagging indicator—that is, they’re better at describing a situation that has already passed. Workers apply and start receiving benefits after their jobs and severance packages have run out, meaning that most of the layoffs happened months before November.
 
And while the jobless rate in our province hasn’t started to fall much yet, November of last year could end up representing the worst point of the recession. With modestly higher oil prices and announcements of new pipelines, some optimism started to return to the provincial economy around this time.
 
As The Owl has stated before, it’s too early to suggest with certainty that the job situation has turned a corner. Today’s employment insurance report was discouraging. Yet it paints the picture of perhaps the worst point of the recession, now in the rear view mirror.
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