The federal government is cutting employment insurance benefits in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit and making them harder to qualify for.

Employment Minister Jason Kenney announced the changes this morning during a visit to Whitehorse.

Kenney says unemployment rates in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit are among the lowest in the country and that the Northern capitals will now be subject to same rules as other parts of Canada.

jason kenney whitehorse

Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney signs a jobs agreement with Yukon education minister Elaine Taylor Wednesday as Senator Dan Lang looks on. (CBC)

"We want folks if they lose their job due to no fault of their own, quickly and actively to search for many of the jobs that are available," he said.

"That's what this change encourages them to do. This is about recognizing the reality that you've got a hot labour market here and we should no longer be pretending that this has stratospheric levels of unemployment."

The changes mean people in Whitehorse, Iqaluit and Yellowknife will have to work 700 hours in the previous 52 weeks, up from 420, to collect employment insurance. They will also collect benefits for a maximum of 36 weeks instead of 45.

The federal government is also going to divide each territory into two EI regions: the capital and the rest of the territory.

The changes take effect in October.