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The number of Alberta residents receiving jobless benefits has increased for the eighth month in a row, Statistics Canada said Thursday. (File Photo)

The number of Canadians receiving employment insurance benefits swelled to 531,700 in June, a figure that has increased by four per cent, or more than 20,000 people, in the past 12 months.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of  EI recipients in Alberta has increased for eight consecutive months, a rise of 7.7 per cent in June compared to the previous month. There are now 22,200 more people on EI in Alberta than there were a year ago, the data agency noted in a release Thursday.

Despite the larger national figure, the ranks of unemployed are not growing evenly across the country. 

In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, there were monthly increases of 4.9 per cent and 3.6 per cent, respectively. However, there were fewer people on EI in June than there were in May in the Atlantic provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

There was little change to the number of people receiving jobless benefits in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The numbers also seem to suggest that the EI rolls could remain high for a time, because the number of initial claims is also rising. (Initial claims involve applicants who don't already have EI). While not everyone who applies for EI will ultimately receive it, the initial claims figure is considered a leading indicator of future jobless benefits.

The claims number rose by 5.1 per cent to 266,000 in June.

While six provinces saw a spike in claims, these four had a decrease: 

  • Nova Scotia.
  • Quebec.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • Prince Edward Island.