indicatorThe Owl

Employment Insurance beneficiaries spiked when CERB ended

November’s tally is the second highest on record after October 2020 when there were 203,200 beneficiaries in the province

By ATB Economics 22 January 2021 1 min read

As of November* 2020, 184,120 Albertans were collecting regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, more than 3.5 times the number 12 months earlier. (The statistics have been adjusted to account for regular seasonal variations.)

November’s tally is the second highest on record after October 2020 when there were 203,200 beneficiaries in the province.

The record numbers are the result of two related factors.

First, the pandemic and accompanying public health measures greatly increased the number of unemployed Albertans.

Second, EI eligibility requirements were temporarily loosened at the end of September to allow more Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) recipients to make the transition to EI.

EI was the main source of income support for unemployed workers prior to the pandemic. The introduction of the CERB in March, however, made it the go to federal program. As a result, the number of EI recipients did not balloon like it did during the recession of 2015-16.

The number of regular EI beneficiaries in Alberta did increase in March and April as those with active claims remained in the EI program. It started to fall in May as all new claims were redirected to the CERB. By September, there were only 23,930 Albertans collecting regular EI benefits, or just 8 per cent of unemployed workers.

When the CERB was phased out, the number of EI beneficiaries spiked in October, with 76 per cent of unemployed Albertans collecting EI that month.

Typically, only about a third of unemployed Albertans are actually collecting EI. The highest coverage rate prior to October 2020 was 47 per cent in October 2016.

While still well under 100 per cent, the CERB and the modified EI program have provided a much larger portion of out of work Albertans with income support than during previous downturns.

*EI Statistics for November 2020 reflect labour market conditions as of the week of November 8 to 14.

Answer to the previous trivia question: Alberta has a larger manufacturing sector than British Columbia. 

Today’s trivia question: When was Unemployment Insurance renamed Employment Insurance?

Typically, only about a third of unemployed Albertans are actually collecting EI

Typically, only about a third of unemployed Albertans are actually collecting EI


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