EI Coverage Falls Below 40%

It may be a grim Christmas for thousands of unemployed Canadians. Today’s Employment Insurance figures show that fewer workers received benefits in October, even as more became unemployed and filed EI claims.

Specifically, the number of people receiving regular benefits declined from 546,580 in September to 541,230 in October. The Labour Force Survey indicates that unemployment rose from 1,334,200 in September to 1,374,200 in October. Therefore, only 39% of unemployed Canadians got benefits (i.e. 541,230/1,374,200 = 0.39).

The situation was even worse in Ontario, which had only 159,630 beneficiaries out of 592,700 unemployed workers. In other words, scarcely more than one-quarter of unemployed Ontarians received benefits (i.e. 159,630/592,700 = 0.27).

Statistics Canada has already reported that national unemployment rose further in November, due to economic factors beyond the control of Canadian workers. The EI system’s apparent inadequacy should be a major concern. The labour movement has long proposed to help more jobless workers by improving the accessibility and duration of EI benefits.

Erin Weir is an economist with the United Steelworkers union and a CCPA research associate.

UPDATE (December 17): Quoted in The Hamilton Spectator (page T7).


  1. I haven’t worked for three years since I lost my summer job after going back to school but never received a dime from EI because I’m a student despite the fact that I’ve been living alone for most of that time. I’ve been wracking up huge debts. My parents, god bless them, have been supporting me with thousands of dollars each year but it’s not enough. I need a job. I’ve had over 20 interviews since 2009. No one has hired me and I am desperate.

    With more talk of austerity and economic threats around the world and no one in Ottawa who seems to care, I fear for my future.

  2. Neil, if you only went to 20 inteviews in 3 years, that’s part of the problem. 3 years equals 48 months, that means you went to less than one interview ever 2 months which is insane. When I’m unemployed I go to atleast an interview per week, if not more.

    Plus, if you’re unemployed after a few months then you simply have no skills. Go back to school and learn something: a trade, learn Microsoft Office, construction, etc. Whatever it takes.

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