The ranks of people receiving Employment Insurance benefits swelled to 543,800 in September due in large part to a surge of new jobless beneficiaries in Alberta.

Alberta's EI number jumped by 9.1 per cent, Statistics Canada reported Thursday. Smaller increases were recorded in Newfoundland and Labrador (up 2.2 per cent) as well as Nova Scotia (up 2.1 per cent) while it decreased by 1.1 per cent in P.E.I.

The other provinces reported little change in their EI numbers, the data agency said.

Across the country, there were 543,800 Canadians receiving EI benefits in September, an increase of 1.1 per cent from August's level. But on an annual basis, that figure has increased by 8.3 per cent or 41,600 people.

Despite the swelling jobless rolls, there was an indication on Thursday that the figure could soon come down. The number of people filing an initial EI claim declined three per cent in September to 234,400.

The claims number is considered a leading indicator of future beneficiaries because people have to fill out a claim for EI before they can receive it. If the claims number is coming down, that should help the main EI number eventually come down as well.