Edmonton EI claims jump in November, driving Alberta increase

The number of people receiving employment insurance in Alberta increased in November, driven by a significant jump in the number of people looking for work in Edmonton.

Latest employment numbers show provincial job market remains sticky

While Calgary recorded a drop in beneficiaries, Edmonton recorded its first increase in 12 months, according to a new report from Statistics Canada. (Christian Hering-Junghans)

The number of people receiving employment insurance in Alberta increased in November, driven by a significant jump in the number of beneficiaries in Edmonton.

Alberta had 63,500 EI claimants last November, up 1.8 per cent from October, Statistics Canada reported on Thursday.

The increase was the first recorded in Alberta following 12 consecutive monthly declines, and it was driven by a bump in Edmonton, where the number of beneficiaries rose by 5.9 per cent to 22,530.

Smaller increases were recorded elsewhere in the province, except in Calgary where the number fell by 1.7 per cent to 21,150.

The increase doesn't reflect the number of people looking for work in Alberta, as not everyone who's out of work qualifies for EI and the benefits only last for so long.

In the 12 months to November, the number of beneficiaries in Alberta fell by 36 per cent, the fastest decline among the provinces.

At the same time, Alberta's unemployment rate fell from 9 per cent to 7.3 per cent.

Across the country, the number of beneficiaries totalled 506,700 in November, down slightly from the previous month.

Compared with November of 2016, the number of people receiving benefits fell by 70,100 people or 12.2 per cent. Nearly half of this decrease was attributable to Alberta, according to Statistics Canada.

In response to the economic downturn, the federal government expanded EI eligibility in most of Alberta in March of 2016, but initially excluded Edmonton from the changes.

Claimants who qualify for the extension get at least an additional five weeks of benefits, up to 20 extra weeks for long-tenured employees. The benefits were made retroactive to January 2015.

Facing public criticism from Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in May of last year that it would also include Edmonton in the extended EI benefits, too, starting in July.

Following the policy changes, the number of beneficiaries in Canada was unusually high for the latter half of 2016, said Statistics Canada.