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Over 70,000 Alberta workers on EI

In December 2021, Alberta saw more people on EI than every December over the last 20 years, except for two.

Last week, Statistics Canada released their December data regarding those who are receiving employment insurance.

Alberta had the third highest number of people receiving EI in December: 72,280. Unsurprisingly, Ontario and Québec were higher, at 186,230 and 154,100, respectively. I say unsurprisingly because they are the two most populous provinces, so it makes sense that they’d also have the largest numbers of EI beneficiaries.

Granted, Alberta is the fourth most populous province, so it’s kind of unexpected to see them having the third highest number of EI recipients. BC was in a distant fourth place, at 59,880.

The number of people receiving EI in Alberta during December 2021 dropped, compared to the previous month: 72,280 vs. 79,190. In fact, every province in Canada saw its number of EI beneficiaries drop.

Newfoundland and Labrador saw the smallest drop, with 4.4% fewer people collecting EI last December, when compared to November. BC had the highest decrease—over 10%—of all the provinces.

Alberta had 8.7% fewer EI beneficiaries than they did in November, the third largest drop. Ontario was in second place with 9.8%.

Every province saw drops in EI recipients compared to December 2020, which shouldn’t be that surprising, given that we were still in the first year of the pandemic in December 2020.

Alberta saw the second largest year-over-year drop of all the provinces. There were over 111,000 fewer people receiving EI in December 2021, compared to December 2020. That’s a 60.6% decrease. Only Ontario’s was higher, at 61.3%; although BC’s was a close third at 60.5%.

The smallest year-over-year decrease was 12.5% in PEI.

Nov–Dec 2021
% change
Dec 2020–Dec 2021
% change
BC-10.1%-60.5%
ON-9.8%-61.3%
AB-8.7%-60.6%
QC-8.1%-49.0%
MB-6.9%-57.0%
SK-6.1%-45.8%
NS-5.1%-30.8%
NB-5.1%-18.4%
PEI-4.5%-12.7%
NL-4.4%-13.5%

Now, none of this should be that shocking, given that we’re pulling out of a global recession, driven primarily by the pandemic. Which made me wonder how December’s EI numbers compared to previous years.

Here are the EI numbers for Alberta for every December over the last decade.

What’s interesting is that despite oil breaking $90 a barrel and the UCP claiming that the Alberta’s Recovery Plan is working, Alberta saw the third highest number of people on EI this past December when compared to all the other Decembers of the last 10 years.

Not only that, but if we go back 2o years, December 2021 is still the third highest December on record.

The only Decembers with higher numbers were in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, and in 2016, during the previous recession triggered by low oil prices.

December 2021’s EI beneficiary numbers are 37.78% higher than they were in December 2019, before the pandemic hit, and 45.81% higher than December 2018, the last December of the NDP’s first term.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on politics and labour.

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