Number of Albertans collecting EI up 91 per cent in 1 year
Canada Service centre documents that display Employment Insurance options are pictured in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2015. (Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press)
Published Thursday, March 24, 2016 11:04AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 24, 2016 9:20PM EDT
The number of out-of-work Albertans collecting employment insurance has risen 91 per cent since January 2015, Statistics Canada reports.
The news offers yet another glimpse into how the collapse in global energy prices is impacting the energy-dependent Prairie province.
Statistics Canada said Thursday that 63,800 Albertans received EI in January, up two per cent from the month before.
The number of EI recipients in Edmonton rose by 2.4 per cent and in Calgary by 1.7 per cent. There were increases in most of the other regions of the province as well.
John Rose, chief economist for the city of Edmonton, said the numbers are directly related to low oil prices.
"This is obviously a reflection of the very difficult conditions we have, focused specifically on our energy sector," he told CTV News Channel. "I would hasten to say we've seen significant job losses in that area as well as manufacturing and logistics."
In all, 543,100 Canadians received EI benefits in January, virtually unchanged from the month before. But on a year-over-year basis, the total number of EI beneficiaries increased by 7.1 per cent -- largely as a result of increases in Alberta.
Alberta has been hit hard by the oil price slump and has seen its jobless rate rise to 7.9 per cent -- the highest level outside Atlantic Canada.
Earlier this week, the federal government announced that the rules governing EI would be changing to help resource-dependent provinces.
The federal budget will add five weeks to the regular 45 weeks of EI benefits that workers in 12 resource-dependent regions receive, as of July but retroactive to January 2015.
The budget will also cut the two-week waiting period for benefits to one week starting next year, and add $73 million over two years to hire more people at overwhelmed Service Canada call centres.
Rose said the approach was akin to using a "blunt instrument" to fix a nuanced problem, and suggested the federal government should have targeted industries that are hurting, as opposed to regions, for a more effective outcome.
"If you're unemployed, if you're losing your job in a particular industry, then you as an individual should get supplemental benefits. For example people coming out of the energy sector in Alberta should receive additional benefits... rather than looking at things from a purely geographical perspective," Rose said.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said in response to the federal government's move that rough estimates from her staff suggest two-thirds of Canadians affected by the EI changes work in Alberta.
With files from The Canadian Press