Number of Canadians receiving regular Employment Insurance benefits virtually unchanged in March at 549,000; number has been relatively stable since September 2011

OTTAWA , May 24, 2012 (press release) – The number of people receiving regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits was little changed in March at 549,400. The number of beneficiaries has been relatively stable since September 2011.

There were more people receiving benefits in March in Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick. At the same time, the number of beneficiaries decreased in Alberta.

To receive EI benefits, individuals must first submit a claim. The number of claims provides an indication of the number of people who could become beneficiaries.

Nationally, the number of initial and renewal claims totalled 234,200 in March, essentially unchanged for the sixth consecutive month. Provincially, claims fell 2.9% in Ontario, 2.6% in British Columbia, and 1.7% in Alberta, while they increased 2.6% in Quebec and 1.1% in New Brunswick. There was little change in all other provinces.

Provincial summary

There were more people receiving regular EI benefits in March in Nova Scotia (+5.4%), Saskatchewan (+3.4%), Ontario (+2.1%), and New Brunswick (+1.4%). These gains offset declines observed in February in those four provinces.

In Alberta, the number of beneficiaries continued on a long-term downward trend, with a 2.9% decline in March. There was little change in the other provinces.
Year-over-year declines continue in most large centres

EI data by sub-provincial region are not seasonally adjusted and are therefore compared on a year-over-year basis.

Between March 2011 and March 2012, 132 of the 143 large centres posted declines in the number of people receiving regular benefits. Large centres are those with a population of 10,000 or more.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the number of people receiving benefits declined in all five large centres. In St. John's, the number fell 17.6% in the 12 months to March to 4,600. It was the largest percentage decrease in the province and the biggest percentage decline since March 2010, when the downward monthly year-over-year trend for St. John's began.

Both large centres in Prince Edward Island had fewer beneficiaries in March. The largest percentage decline occurred in Charlottetown, where the number of people receiving benefits fell 16.7%, the ninth consecutive month of year-over-year declines.

In Nova Scotia, four of the five large centres had fewer beneficiaries compared with 12 months earlier. In Halifax, the number of beneficiaries fell 3.9% to 6,400, continuing the series of declines that began in March 2010.

In New Brunswick , five of the six large centres had fewer beneficiaries in the 12 months to March. In Saint John, the number of people receiving benefits fell 5.6% to 3,000, continuing the series of year-over-year declines that began 14 months earlier.

Of the 33 large centres in Quebec, 28 had fewer beneficiaries between March 2011 and March 2012. The largest percentage declines occurred in Rouyn-Noranda, Val-d'Or and Sherbrooke. In Montréal, the number of people receiving benefits fell 11.1% to 65,200, extending a two-year-long period of declines. In Thetford Mines, the number of beneficiaries increased for the fourth consecutive month.

The number of people receiving benefits fell in 37 of the 41 large centres in Ontario in the 12 months to March. The largest percentage declines occurred in Stratford, Hamilton, Chatham-Kent and Windsor. In Toronto, the number of beneficiaries fell 16.4% to 71,000, extending the two-year-long trend of year-over-year monthly declines.

In Manitoba, the number of people receiving regular benefits decreased in all four large centres in the 12 months to March. In Winnipeg, the number of beneficiaries fell 1.6% to 7,300.

In Saskatchewan, the number of people receiving benefits decreased in seven of the eight large centres between March 2011 and March 2012. The number of beneficiaries in Regina declined 10.5% to 1,400, continuing a series of declines that began in the summer of 2010. In Saskatoon, the number of beneficiaries fell 5.3% to 2,200, the 16th consecutive year-over-year monthly decline.

All 12 large centres in Alberta had fewer beneficiaries in March compared with 12 months earlier. The largest percentage decreases occurred in Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Cold Lake, Red Deer, Edmonton and Calgary. In Edmonton, the number of beneficiaries fell 35.7% to 9,000 and in Calgary, it declined 32.6%, also to 9,000. This continues the two-year-long period of declines for both Edmonton and Calgary.

In British Columbia, the number of beneficiaries fell in 22 of the 25 large centres, with the largest percentage declines in Squamish, Nanaimo, Chilliwack, Kamloops, Vancouver and Victoria. In Vancouver, 25,600 people received benefits in March, down 17.9% from March 2011, continuing a series of declines that began almost two years earlier. In Victoria, 3,300 people received regular benefits, down 16.9%.
Demographic groups

EI data by sex and age are not seasonally adjusted and are therefore compared on a year-over-year basis.

Between March 2011 and March 2012, the number of men receiving regular benefits fell 8.8% to 452,200, continuing a series of declines that started in March 2010. The decline was similar for men under 25 years of age (-9.7%) and for those aged 25 to 54 (-9.8%). Among men aged 55 and over, the number of beneficiaries fell 5.4%.

A total of 232,200 women received regular benefits in March, down 11.8% from March 2011. Among women under 25 years of age, the number of beneficiaries fell 14.8%, while for those aged 25 to 54, it was down 12.5%. For women aged 55 and over, the decline was 8.4%.

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