Prince Edward Islanders moved away last year in near-record numbers, according to Statistics Canada.

Allen Roach - custom

Innovation Minister Allen Roach is worried P.E.I. is losing skilled workers due to employment insurance reform. (CBC)

P.E.I. saw a net loss of 1,074 people to interprovincial migration in 2012-13, the highest number in more than 30 years. Overall population growth was static, stuck at 145,200, halting a growth trend that went back to 2007.

Many people, including the P.E.I. government, say changes to employment insurance are driving workers to leave. Tyne Valley oyster plant worker Jean Milligan told CBC News a year ago she expected changes to EI, such as fewer weeks of benefits and forcing people to take lower paying jobs, would force people out of the province. She also said that was clearly what the federal government wanted.

Interprovincial migration
2006-07 -849
2007-08 -291
2008-09 -536
2009-10 60
2010-11 -210
2011-12 -618
2012-13 -1,074

She said she saw it happening a year ago, and she is seeing it even more now.

"It just seems like every year there's more people going out west, leaving their families behind, and it's all to do with EI," said Milligan.

"The ones that has little kids and stuff like that, has a family to feed, it's more harder on them. If they have to go out west, they have to go out west."

Last year saw tens of thousands of Canadians moving out of Atlantic Canada, Ontario, Quebec. In fact there were only two winners in interprovincial migration: Alberta and Saskatchewan. Alberta picked up another 52,677 residents from other provinces.

Unions on P.E.I. had warned cuts to EI would send seasonal workers packing. The P.E.I. government says the numbers bear that out.

Innovation Minister Allen Roach said this is just the beginning, and the problem could cascade as businesses start having trouble recruiting skilled workers.

"We're really only beginning to see the results of some of this," said Roach.

"I think what we'll see in the next while to come, is when we start having those conversations with industry, with the seasonal people, to see how many of those skilled seasonal people that we're losing that are going west that may or may not come back."

Roach said seasonal industries in fisheries, agriculture and tourism all require a skilled workforce. He said he's been trying to talk to the federal government about EI changes since they were first announced, but so far he's had no response.

For mobile device users: Are you worried about the number of Prince Edward Islanders leaving for other parts of Canada?

Population of P.E.I.
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

137,721

138,764

139,909

141,678

144,038

145,165

145,237