Employment Insurance claims flat in March: Statistics Canada

The number of people claiming EI benefits was little changed nationally in March, although claims rose by more than three per cent in Alberta, Statistics Canada says.
Employment Insurance options are shown in this July 2015 photo. Claims for EI were flat in March. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The number of people on Employment Insurance in Canada remained flat in March, Statistics Canada said Thursday.

The federal agency said 545,700 people received regular EI benefits during the month, down just 0.4 per cent from February. The number of EI beneficiaries has not changed much since the fall of 2015.

Reflecting the tough times in the energy sector, Alberta saw a 3.3 per cent rise in the number of people receiving unemployment benefits. Statistics Canada said there has been an upward trend in the number of EI receipients in the province since the fall of 2014, when the oil slowdown began.

Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Nova Scotia and B.C. all saw declines, while little change was seen in the remaining provinces.

The report on EI figures came out the same day that the U.S. Labor Department said the number of people filing applications for unemployment aid dropped by 16,000 last week to 278,000, ending two weeks of increases.

Applications, which are a proxy for layoffs, have been below 300,000, a historically low level, for 63 straight weeks. That's the longest such streak since 1973.

with files from The Associated Press