Being without work and collecting employment insurance (E.I.) became much more common for thousands of Albertans over the recession. But as 2017 got started, fewer E.I. cheques were flowing to the unemployed in the province. Could this be a sign of an improving job market?
Statistics Canada reported that 91,700 Albertans received E.I. benefits in January, a drop of 6,100 or 6.2 per cent from December. As the agency states: “This is the first notable decrease that has occurred in the province since September 2014, excluding August 2016, when there was a sizable offsetting decrease in the number of beneficiaries following the implementation of E.I. policy changes in July.”
The drop in the number of claims occurred throughout the province, including the two largest cities Edmonton (-5.8 per cent) and Calgary (-4.6 per cent).
At first glance, this appears to be good news. Yet it’s more complicated than that. There are two ways E.I. claims can fall: people finding jobs, or people running out of eligible weeks of benefits. In this case, we cannot be entirely sure which it is.
In a separate report on the number of jobs in the province (the Labour Force Survey), Alberta did see a few jobs created in December, but virtually none in January. That suggests the drop of 6,100 in E.I. claims at the start of the year wasn’t due to workers finding jobs—at least not entirely. Some of the decline in claims is due to unemployed workers simply having exhausted their benefits.