Calgary

Alberta EI claims jump 70% after Fort McMurray fire

The scale of work disruptions from the Fort McMurray wildfire is being born out in employment insurance numbers from Alberta that show a record level of applicants.

Employment insurance recipients increase by 12% from April to May

From April to May this year, the number of Albertans collecting employment insurance rose by more than 12 per cent, a spike that coincided with the wildfire in Fort McMurray, which forced the mass evacuation of that city. (Supplied/Lucas Welsh/CBC)

The scale of work disruptions from the Fort McMurray wildfire is being born out in employment insurance numbers from Alberta that show a record level of applicants.

Statistics Canada says EI applications soared 70 per cent from April to May for a 22,800 increase in what it says is the largest monthly gain in any province since it started tracking the numbers in 1997.

Alberta recorded a 58.6 per cent year-over-year increase in EI recipients.

Actual EI recipients jumped 12.1 per cent in May from a month earlier to 77,800, the largest increase since June 2009.

Almost a third of the new recipients are in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes Fort McMurray.

"The number of beneficiaries in Wood Buffalo more than doubled from 1,900 in April to 4,500 in May," Statistics Canada said in a release.

"This increase coincided with the wildfire in northern Alberta, which resulted in the evacuation of residents from the Fort McMurray area in early May."

In Calgary, the EI rolls swelled from the previous month by 6.8 per cent to reach 24,040 and in Edmonton by 8.4 per cent to reach 24,260. 

Nationally the number of people collecting EI was up by a modest 2.4 per cent. But the number of new EI claims — which provides an indication of the number of people who could become beneficiaries — rose by 9.7 per cent from April to May of this year.

"Most of the national increase was attributable to a higher number of claims in Alberta," Statistics Canada said.

With files from CBC News

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