Most newly jobless collect EI

OTTAWA — A large majority of the newly jobless are receiving some relief from the much-criticized Canadian employment insurance system, new figures released Tuesday suggest.

OTTAWA — A large majority of the newly jobless are receiving some relief from the much-criticized Canadian employment insurance system, new figures released Tuesday suggest.

Statistics Canada reported 316,300 more Canadians were receiving employment insurance benefits in June than in October, a nine-month period that saw net employment decrease by 370,000 Canadians.

While the figures are not a straight correlation, a Statistics Canada official said it was clear a large percentage of workers who lost their jobs during the recession are able to collect EI benefits, giving a boost to the Conservative government’s contention that the system is working as designed and doesn’t need wholesale changes.

TD Bank chief economist Don Drummond said the government could take credit for another reason — the decision to tackle duration of benefits rather than eligibility requirements.

In the January budget, Ottawa extended benefits to laid off workers by up to five weeks to about a year in some cases.

“I think time is going to prove that the debate we’re having on the employment insurance system is focusing on the wrong thing.

“I think this recession will prove it has been less about an access problem than a duration problem,” he said.

Drummond said if economists are correct in forecasting continuing job losses until next year, the next flare-up in the EI debate will be that workers are running out of benefits.

But Liberal human resources critic Michael Savage said the figures still show the system is failing Canadians.

“We still have 1.6 million unemployed and half are not getting EI, that’s nobody’s definition of success,” he said.

He also noted the net employment number — which includes employment gains — obscures the fact that nearly 500,000 Canadians have lost their jobs since October.

“At a time of stimulus spending, we should be taking care of the people who need it the most,” he said.

In June, after targeting its key criticism of the January budget on strict EI eligibility requirements, the Liberal opposition demanded the government strike up a panel to review the system as a condition for not forcing an election.

The figures since January suggest, however, that as job losses have deepened, more and more Canadians have been successful in tapping the system for income support. That’s partly because the newly laid off include many experienced, full-time workers, and because eligibility requirements ease as the jobless rate rises.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, a member of the EI panel, said his party is concentrating on helping long-term workers who have lost their jobs because of the recession, but added it was also important that the system “respect the value of hard work.”

He said the opposition demand for a uniform 360 hour requirement for qualifying for EI goes too far.

In June, 816,600 Canadians, or 51.3 per cent of the 1.6 million officially unemployed, were collecting benefits, a significant improvement from January’s ratio of 42.7 per cent.

The agency said the number of beneficiaries increased 18.8 per cent in the second quarter, down from the 25.2 per cent growth rate of the first quarter.

The increased coverage is a good thing, even if it does point to the heavy toll the slump is exacting on working Canadians, said labour economist Erin Weir of the United Steelworkers.

“It’s better than 43 per cent, but I would say too little, too late,” he said.

“We’ve been in a pretty bad labour market for a number of months now and we’ve only just gotten to the point where a little more than half of unemployed workers are receiving benefits.”

He also noted that in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province and manufacturing heartland, only 41 per cent of the unemployed currently qualify. Weir agreed with Drummond that many workers currently collecting may run out of benefits before they are able to find new jobs.

Another promising note in the June data was that initial and renewal claims fell by 7.9 per cent, suggesting the labour market deterioration is slowing.

Just Posted

City Hall Park construction begins next week

Construction to update Red Deer’s City Hall Park is set to begin… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Jazz at the Lake begins

The 16 annual event began Friday and runs until Sunday in Sylvan Lake

Photos: Lunchtime tunes on Alexander Way

Final concert of the summer

Clearwater regional firefighters in B.C.

Crew operating west of Prince George

PHOTOS: Samson Cree Nation Pow Wow

The Samson Cree Nation hosted its annual Pow Wow, celebrating youth last weekend

WATCH: Feasting at Red Deer Ribfest this weekend

Ribfest runs until Sunday at Rotary Recreation Park

Street Tales: Life is filled with unlearned lessons

There are days that I almost believe evolutionists in that we are… Continue reading

Canadians believe in immigration but concerned about asylum seekers: study

OTTAWA — Canadians are generally supportive of current immigration levels, a survey… Continue reading

Quebec announces plan to compensate taxi drivers after Uber’s arrival

MONTREAL — The Quebec government has outlined how it intends to compensate… Continue reading

Hospitals to see ‘delays’ in care after losing Saudi students, health group says

OTTAWA — The loss of Saudi Arabian resident physicians in Canada’s hospitals… Continue reading

PHOTOS: B.C. city wakes up to darkness under wildfire smoke

The rest of the province also dealing with thick haze as smoky skies continue

Death Valley worker has seen highest, lowest temperatures

LAS VEGAS — Thousands of tourists descend on Death Valley each summer… Continue reading

Banff’s Sunshine ski resort upset with proposed guidelines from Parks Canada

BANFF, Alta. — An internationally known ski resort in Banff National Park… Continue reading

Folk singer Ian Tyson cancels show due to ‘serious medical situation’

TORONTO — Canadian folk singer-songwriter Ian Tyson has cancelled his appearance at… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month