The number of employment insurance recipients in Red Deer more than quadrupled between October 2008 and October 2009, but the tally is trending downward.
Statistics Canada reported this week that 1,650 people from Red Deer were receiving regular monthly EI benefits in October, up 313 per cent from the 400 recipients a year earlier. However, the number was the lowest point since March, when there were 1,460 claimants in Red Deer.
The local EI figure reached a peak of 2,180 in July, and has dropped every month since.
Charles Strachey, a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration, said local postings on Service Canada’s Job Bank suggest that employment opportunities are up. These include listings for oilpatch, manufacturing and construction workers that didn’t exist a few months ago.
“There was about an eight-month absence of oil and gas jobs, and they’re back,” said Strachey, adding that the number of such postings is still relatively small.
He noted that oil and gas companies — as well as many other employers — often increase their payrolls following the summer. Additionally, a strengthening residential construction sector seems to be creating direct jobs and indirect employment with companies like cabinet-makers.
Strachey said unemployment in the Red Deer region appears to have stabilized at around seven per cent.
The falling local employment insurance stats might also reflect claimants who have moved away. For the Red Deer region, the labour force has declined from 112,800 in October 2008 to 111,100 for the same month this year.
“That’s 1,700 fewer people available to work,” observed Strachey.
Meanwhile, Alberta’s total labour force increased by 25,000 during the year, with Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat all exhibiting growth.
Among the province’s seven largest urban areas, Grande Prairie experienced the greatest year-over-year increase of regular employment insurance recipients — jumping 418 per cent to 1,140 beneficiaries in October. Calgary was up 352 per cent to 18,350, Medicine Hat climbed 343 per cent to 1,240, Edmonton rose 252 per cent to 14,740, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo went up 196 per cent to 710, and Lethbridge had the smallest change at 152 per cent, boosting its list of EI recipients in October to 780 people.
Nationally, the number of people receiving regular EI benefits in October numbered 809,600. That was up 62 per cent from October 2008 but down 0.5 per cent from September 2009.
The largest year-over-year increases were in Ontario, with 122,200 more recipients; Alberta, which was up 56,400; British Columbia, which climbed 52,500; and Quebec, which increased to 49,200.
The number of regular EI beneficiaries across Canada has been declining every month since June, when the figure peaked at 829,300.
The StatsCan figures exclude those receiving training, job creation or self-employment benefits, and recipients of other employment or support measures benefits.