Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment Report for the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2015 and ending March 31, 2016
Chapter II - 2. Employment Insurance regular benefits

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2. Employment Insurance regular benefits

Employment Insurance (EI) regular benefits provide income support to partially replace lost employment income for eligible unemployed contributors to the EI program while they look for work or upgrade their skills. To qualify for regular benefits, individuals must have paid EI premiums during their qualifying period (defined as either the 52 weeks prior to the new claim’s establishment or since the establishment of a previous claim, whichever is shorter), must have been without work and without pay for at least seven consecutive days and must have accumulated between 420 and 700 hours of insurable employment over the qualifying period depending on the unemployment rate of the EI economic region in which they reside at the time of making their claim (otherwise known as the Variable Entrance Requirement). Footnote 21 Claimants for EI regular benefits must be available for and actively seeking suitable employment during their claim period.

For the purpose of these sections, EI regular claims refer to claims for which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.

2.1 Employment Insurance regular claims and amount paid

The number of regular claims established in 2015/2016 rose to 1.4 million, an increase of 6.6% from 2014/2015. There has been a recent upward trend in the number of claims established since the recent low of 1.3 million claims in 2013/2014, attributable in part to slowing rates of economic growth and labour market adjustments due to commodity price declines in several goods-producing industries, particularly in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The amount paid in EI regular benefits increased by 14.3% compared to 2014/2015, reaching $12.1 billion in 2015/2016 (see Chart 6), and was the second straight year of increases after a four-year downward trend following a high of $14.7 billion in regular benefits paid in 2009/2010.

Chart 6 - Employment Insurance regular claims and amount paid, Canada, 2006/2007 to 2015/2016
Chart 6 - Employment insurance regular claims and amount paid, Canada, 2006/2007 to 2015/2016
Show data table
Regular claims (Millions - left scale) Amount paid ($ Billions - right scale)
2006/2007 1.328 8.475
2007/2008 1.294 8.372
2008/2009 1.642 9.965
2009/2010 1.617 14.683
2010/2011 1.397 12.805
2011/2012 1.422 11.122
2012/2013 1.357 10.451
2013/2014 1.326 10.368
2014/2015 1.343 10.602
2015/2016 1.431 12.122
  • Note: Includes all claims for which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.
Chart 7 - Employment Insurance regular claims and unemployment rate, Canada, 2011/2012 to 2015/2016
Chart 7 - Employment Insurance regular claims and unemployment rate, Canada, 2011/2012 to 2015/2016
Show data table
Regular claims (left scale) Unemployment rate (right scale)
2011/2012 1.8% 7.4%
2012/2013 -4.6% 7.2%
2013/2014 -2.3% 7.0%
2014/2015 1.3% 6.9%
2015/2016 6.6% 7.0%
  • Note: Includes all claims for which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data (for data on regular claims); and Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, CANSIM Table 282-0001 (for data on unemployment rate). ESDC data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

Given that EI regular benefits are meant to provide income support during periods of unemployment for eligible claimants while they search for work, the number of new claims established tends to be sensitive to economic cycles and labour market conditions. The national unemployment rate in Canada has gradually trended downward over the last five years, from 7.9% in 2010/2011 down to 6.9% in 2014/2015, with a small increase to 7.0% reported in 2015/2016 (see Chart 7). The large increase in new regular claims established for 2015/2016 was largely driven by resource-based regions where declining commodity prices led to sharp declines in employment within directly affected and closely related industries (e.g. Mining and Oil and Gas Extraction, Transportation and Warehousing, Construction), particularly in Alberta, as discussed in Chapter I.

In 2015/2016, there were, on average, 545,000 beneficiaries receiving EI regular benefits each month, an increase of 6.8% from the average of 510,300 regular beneficiaries in 2014/2015. Footnote 22 As the number of beneficiaries is based on previously established claims, these two measures tend to move in similar directions, albeit at their own pace. New claim volumes will increase with beneficiaries when there is an economic shock and the beneficiary count can remain elevated after the volume of new claims have subsided as previously established claims continue to issue payments until benefits are exhausted or the claimants have returned to work—reflecting prevailing economic conditions or, potentially, policies that extend benefit entitlement.

Employment Insurance regular claims and amount paid by province or territory, gender and age

While the number of new EI regular claims established increased nationally (+6.6%), there were high levels of variability in the number of new claims established by province or territory. Similar to 2014/2015, Alberta (+58.6%), Saskatchewan (+25.7%), Nunavut (+13.3%) and Manitoba (+12.2%) saw large increases in claim volumes, while the number of claims decreased in Quebec (-0.4%), Ontario (-0.1%), the Northwest Territories (-7.7%) and Yukon (-2.1%). All other jurisdictions reported much smaller increases in the number of claims established in 2015/2016.

The total amount of regular benefits paid in 2015/2016 by province or territory followed a similar pattern (see Chart 8), with Alberta (+100.8%) and Saskatchewan (+46.7%) reporting the largest increases over 2014/2015. Canada’s territories were the only jurisdictions to report declines in the amount paid in EI regular benefits, with Yukon reporting the largest decline (-17.8%). Seven out of ten provinces recorded increases in amounts paid that were below the national average of 14.3%.

Table 6 depicts the percentage change in new EI regular claims established and amount paid by gender from 2014/2015 to 2015/2016. The number of EI regular claims established increased nationally for both men (+8.5%) and women (+3.5%). Increases in new claims established in Alberta and Saskatchewan were particularly pronounced among men (+71.1% and +34.8%, respectively) with significant, albeit smaller, increases among women in these provinces (+36.8% and +9.0%, respectively). Growth rates of new EI regular claims were higher for men than women across most provinces and territories, except Nova Scotia (+3.3% for women vs. +1.5% for men), New Brunswick (+6.8% for women vs. +3.2% for men), Quebec (-0.3% for women vs. -0.4% for men) and Ontario (no change for women vs. -0.3% for men).

Similar to new claims established, the amount paid in EI regular benefits to men (+17.4%) increased at more than double the rate reported for women (+8.4%). Men reported higher rates of increase and lower rates of decline in amounts paid in EI regular benefits in every province and territory with the exception of Nunavut. The largest gaps in the rates of increase in amount paid for 2015/2016 were observed in Alberta (+117.1% versus +69.8%) and Saskatchewan (+56.1% versus +24.3%). At the national level, men have reported higher rates of growth in both claims established and amount paid over the last three years, with particularly elevated growth rates for new claims and amount paid among men during 2015/2016.

Chart 8 - Employment Insurance regular claims and amount paid by province or territory, Canada, 2014/2015 to 2015/2016
Chart 8 - Employment Insurance regular claims and amount paid by province or territory, Canada, 2014/2015 to 2015/2016
Show data table
% change claims established % change amount paid
B.C. 5.1% 12.7%
Alta. 58.6% 100.8%
Sask. 25.7% 46.7%
Man. 12.2% 22.0%
Ont. -0.1% 3.5%
Que. -0.4% 3.6%
N.B. 4.5% 11.2%
N.S. 2.1% 12.9%
P.E.I 1.4% 10.2%
N.L. 7.0% 12.5%
Y.T. -2.1% -17.8%
N.W.T. -7.7% -1.5%
Nvt. 13.3% -0.8%
  • Note: Includes all claims for which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance Administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample.
Table 6 - Employment Insurance regular claims and amount paid by gender, Canada, 2014/2015 to 2015/2016
Claims Amount paid ($ millions)
2014/2015 2015/2016 Change (%) 2014/2015 2015/2016 Change (%)
Men 826,410 896,610 +8.5% $7,032.7 $8,253.4 +17.4%
Women 516,200 534,480 +3.5% $3,569.3 $3,868.8 +8.4%
Canada 1,342,610 1,431,090 +6.6% $10,602.0 $12,122.2 +14.3%
  • Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding. Includes all claims for which at least $1 in EI regular benefits was paid.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data, based on a 10% sample.

By age, the largest share of new claims established in 2015/2016 was by claimants between 25 and 44 years old (44.7%), followed by those between the ages of 45 and 54 years old (23.0%), those 55 years and older (22.4%) and youth under 25 years old (9.8%). While the order of these age categories has been relatively stable, the share of new claims established by those 55 years and older has increased slowly over time, rising 2.5 percentage points since 2011/2012.

A similar pattern is observed among age groups for the amount paid in EI regular benefits. Specifically, the share of the total amount paid to those aged 55 years and older per year has been gradually increasing since 2011/2012. The largest share of amounts paid in EI regular benefits in 2015/2016 were provided to claimants between 25 and 44 years old (44.1%), followed by those between the ages of 45 and 54 years old (23.5%), those 55 years and older (22.9%) and youth under 25 years old (9.5%). The share of amount paid by age category has been relatively stable over time, with a slight increase in the share of amount paid (+1.9 percentage points) to those 55 years and older and a similar decline (-2.3 percentage points) in the share of amount paid to those between the ages of 45 and 54 from 2011/2012 to 2015/2016.

These trends are likely attributable in part to Canada’s aging population, as there is a positive correlation between the increase in the number of EI regular claims and amount paid among older workers and the increase in their share of the Canadian labour force. Older workers accounted for 20.0% of the labour force in 2015/2016, an increase from 17.7% in 2011/2012. Footnote 23

Employment Insurance regular claims and amount paid by industry

From 2014/2015 to 2015/2016, the total number of new EI regular claims established increased for all industrial sectors except Utilities, which fell by 4.3% (see Table 7). In percentage terms, the largest increase in new EI regular claims was by unemployed workers from Mining and Oil and Gas Extraction (+32.4%), which continued to be affected by sharp declines in commodity prices that began in 2014/2015. Despite two years of large year-over-year percentage increases, Mining and Oil and Gas Extraction only accounted for 2.7% of all EI regular claims in 2015/2016. Large year-over-year increases in the number of EI regular claims were also observed in Transportation and Warehousing (+20.8%), Construction (+15.4%) and Retail Trade (+14.6%).

Table 7 - Employment Insurance regular claims and amount paid by industry, Canada, 2014/2015 to 2015/2016
Number of claims (Percentage share) Amount paid, $ millions (Percentage share)
2014/2015 2015/2016 Change (%) 2014/2015 2015/2016 Change (%)
Goods-producing industries 511,030 (38.1%) 565,610 (39.5%) +10.7% $4,379.8 (41.3%) $5,337.1 (44.0%) +21.9%
Agriculture, forestry and hunting 56,880 (4.2%) 57,360 (4.0%) +0.8% $500.1 (4.7%) $519.7 (4.3%) +3.9%
Mining and oil and gas extraction 28,900 (2.2%) 38,250 (2.7%) +32.4% $238.9 (2.3%) $445.0 (3.7%) +86.3%
Utilities 4,420 (0.3%) 4,230 (0.3%) -4.3% $41.1 (0.4%) $39.1 (0.3%) -5.0%
Construction 274,140 (20.4%) 316,290 (22.1%) +15.4% $2,376.7 (22.4%) $2,934.7 (24.2%) +23.5%
Manufacturing 146,690 (10.9%) 149,480 (10.4%) +1.9% $1,222.4 (11.5%) $1,397.9 (11.5%) +14.4%
Services-producing industries 615,590 (55.7%) 680,170 (57.4%) +9.8% $5,656.9 (53.4%) $6,487.5 (53.5%) +14.7%
Wholesale trade 44,050 (3.3%) 48,240 (3.4%) +9.5% $421.0 (4.0%) $497.1 (4.1%) +18.1%
Retail trade 72,850 (5.4%) 83,500 (5.8%) +14.6% $607.0 (5.7%) $685.4 (5.7%) +12.9%
Transportation and warehousing 56,270 (4.2%) 67,950 (4.7%) +20.8% $400.3 (3.8%) $520.5 (4.3%) +30.0%
Information, culture and recreation* 39,470 (2.9%) 41,320 (2.9%) +4.7% $318.3 (3.0%) $336.2 (2.8%) +5.6%
Finance and insurance 13,820 (1.0%) 15,500 (1.1%) +12.2% $155.9 (1.5%) $166.5 (1.4%) +6.8%
Real Estate, rental and leasing 18,030 (1.3%) 20,220 (1.4%) +12.1% $163.7 (1.5%) $191.8 (1.6%) +17.2%
Professional, scientific and technical Services 54,690 (4.1%) 61,630 (4.3%) +12.7% $505.4 (4.8%) $630.5 (5.2%) +24.8%
Business, building and other support services** 93,310 (6.9%) 100,250 (7.0%) +7.4% $787.0 (7.4%) $881.9 (7.3%) +12.1%
Educational services 146,040 (10.9%) 156,100 (10.9%) +6.9% $634.6 (6.0%) $711.6 (5.9%) +12.1%
Health care and social assistance 47,160 (3.5%) 47,610 (3.3%) +1.0% $362.2 (3.4%) $371.2 (3.1%) +2.5%
Accommodation and food services 58,550 (4.4%) 63,840 (4.5%) +9.0% $427.2 (4.0%) $498.2 (4.1%) +16.6%
Other services (excluding Public administration) 40,730 (3.0%) 45,900 (3.2%) +12.7% $334.4 (3.2%) $399.4 (3.3%) +19.4%
Public administration 63,400 (4.7%) 69,680 (9.9%) +9.9% $539.9 (5.1%) $597.3 (4.9%) +10.6%
Unclassified 83,210 (6.2%) 43,740 (3.1%) -47.4% $565.3 (5.3%) $297.6 (2.5%) -47.4%
Canada 1,342,610 (100.0%) 1,431,090 (100.0%) +6.6% $10,602.0 (100.0%) $12,122.2 (100.0%) +14.3%
  • Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding. Includes all claims for which at least $1 in EI regular benefits was paid.
  • * NAICS codes 51 (Information and Cultural Industries) and 71 (Arts, Entertainment and Recreation).
  • ** NAICS codes 55 (Management of Companies and Enterprises) and 56 (Administrative and Support, Waste Management and Remediation services).
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data, based on a 10% sample.

Note: Impacts of Employment Insurance (EI) on labour mobility

The EI program supports labour mobility through two policies. First, if an individual is receiving EI benefits and decides to move to look for work, they will continue to receive EI benefits with no change to their benefit rate or number of weeks they are entitled to receive during the benefit period, as EI benefits are based on where the individual resides when the claim is established. Second, if an individual voluntarily leaves their job in order to relocate to follow a spouse, common-law partner or dependent child (for access to medical treatment centres or other care needs) it is considered a valid reason for separation and they will still be eligible to receive EI benefits.

A number of studies have focused on the determinants of labour mobility within Canada and how EI may affect a worker’s decision to migrate for employment. The available evidence suggests that EI is generally not a barrier to labour mobility. Studies suggest that the EI program does not significantly affect migration decisions,* while factors such as demographics and regional labour market characteristics (e.g., age, gender, employment rates, population size, etc.) as well as moving costs, play key roles in these decisions.** Among EI regular claimants, those in regions with a high unemployment rate (12.1% or higher) were more likely to commute to work from one EI economic region to another, but less likely to permanently move to another EI economic region; however, the overall effect of EI benefits on geographical attachment was very minimal.***

  • * Source: HRSDC, Commuting and Mobility Patterns of Employment Insurance (EI) Recipients and Non-Recipients (Ottawa: HRSDC, Evaluation Directorate, 2011).
  • ** Source: André Bernard, Ross Finnie and Benoît St-Jean, Interprovincial Mobility and Earnings (Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2008).
  • *** Source: HRSDC, Regional Out-Migration and Commuting Patterns of Employment Insurance (EI) Claimants (Ottawa: HRSDC, Evaluation Directorate, 2012).

Consistent with the previous year, the three industries representing the most new EI regular claims in 2015/2016 were: Construction (22.1%); Educational Services (10.9%); and Manufacturing (10.4%). Combined these three industries accounted for 43.5% of all EI regular claims (see Table 7).

In 2015/2016, the number of new EI regular claims from goods-producing industries increased (+10.7%), driven primarily by growth among workers from Mining and Oil and Gas Extraction (+32.4%) and Construction (+15.4%). Similarly, the amount paid for EI regular benefits in 2015/2016 expanded by 21.9% in goods-producing industries and was attributable to sharp increases in amounts paid to Mining and Oil and Gas Extraction (+86.3%), Construction (+23.5%) and Manufacturing (+14.4%) and, together, made up 89.1% of goods-producing industries’ new claims in 2015/2016.

The number of EI regular claims from the services sector increased by 9.8%, largely on a greater number of new claims established by unemployed workers from Transportation and Warehousing (+20.8%), Retail Trade (+14.6%), Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (+12.7%) and Other Services (+12.7%). The service sector also saw a corresponding 14.7% increase in the amount of EI regular benefits paid, driven primarily by increases in Transportation and Warehousing (+30.0%) and Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (+24.8%).

The increased use of EI regular benefits by both goods- and services-producing industries occurred even as employment trends diverged in the two sectors: goods-producing industries observed an employment loss of -0.5% in 2015/2016, while the services industry showed employment gains of 1.2% (see Chart 9).

A recent departmental study Footnote 24on industry of re-employment patterns after a layoff, comparing workers based on their EI claim status, examined if laid-off workers returned to the same industry or transitioned to a new one when re-employed, and what was the impact of the re-employment on their wages. The study found that the majority of re-employed laid-off workers found a job in the same industry regardless of whether or not they claimed EI benefits and that the share of laid-off workers that changed industry upon re-employment increased with the duration of the unemployment spell. The study also looked at the impact of returning to or changing industry on laid-off workers' wage by examining those that received higher, lower or similar wage after re-employment. When returning to the same industry of layoff, the majority of re-employed workers maintained a similar or higher wage regardless of their EI claim status.

Chart 9 - Employment Insurance regular claims, amount paid in benefits and employment by industry grouping, Canada, 2015/2016
Chart 9 - Employment Insurance regular claims, amount paid in benefits and employment by industry grouping, Canada, 2015/2016
Show data table
Changes in EI reg. claims, amount paid in benefits and employment, by industry grouping, 2015/2016
Annual % change
Regular claims Amount paid Employment
Goods-producing industries 10.7% 21.9% -0.5%
Services-producing industries 9.8% 14.7% 1.2%
  • Note: Includes all claims for which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • Sources: ESDC, Employment Insurance administrative data, based on a 10% sample (for data on regular claims and amount paid), and Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, CANSIM Table 282-0007 (for data on employment).

Employment Insurance regular benefits and firms

According to 2014 tax data Footnote 25—the most recent tax year microdata available—there were 1.2 million firms Footnote 26 operating in Canada, a 1.3% increase compared to 2013. There were approximately 303,800 firms associated with the establishment of an EI regular benefit claim as a claimant’s former employer in 2014 (or 25.7% of all firms), a decrease of 1.2% over the previous year.

The proportion of firms with at least one employee receiving EI regular benefits varied widely according to firm size, with smaller firms being less likely to be the last employer of a claimant. Footnote 27 In 2014, 20.3% of small-sized firms (1 to 19 employees) had at least one former employee who received EI regular benefits. In comparison, 75.3% of small-to-medium (20 to 99 employees) firms, 95.6% of medium-to-large (100 to 499 employees) and 99.7% of large-sized (500 employees or more) firms had a former employee who received EI regular benefits.

However, compared to the distribution of the workforce, employees from smaller firms tended to be over-represented among EI regular claimants (see Table 8). workers in large-sized firms were underrepresented among EI regular claimants as they accounted for 43.0% of workers and only 31.3% of EI regular claimants. All other categories of firms were over-represented among EI regular claimants—small firms, for example, represented 21.6% of workers and 27.0% of EI regular claimants. This higher use of EI regular benefits could suggest that in difficult business or economic conditions, smaller firms may need to make broader adjustment to their workforce resulting in a larger share of their employees claiming EI regular benefits as a result of layoffs. Moreover, this trend can also be influenced by industry-related factors, as small businesses may make up a disproportionate share of some seasonal industries (most notably in construction).

Table 8 - Firms, employment and Employment Insurance regular claimants by size of firms*, Canada, 2014
Number of firms Employment distribution** (% share) EI claimant Distribution***(% share)
All firms Firms with a least one employee receiving EI regular benefits
Small 1,069,445 216,746 21.6% 27.0%
Small-medium 91,471 68,919 19.5% 24.3%
Medium-large 15,538 14,856 15.9% 17.4%
Large 3,268 3,257 43.0% 31.3%
Canada 1,179,722 303,778 100.0% 100.0%
  • * The categories of firm size reflect those found in Business Dynamics in Canada, a Statistics Canada publication. Small-sized firms are defined as those that employ 1 to 19 employees. Small-to-medium sized firms employ 20 to 99 employees. Medium-to-large sized firms employ 100 to 499 employees. Large-sized firms employ 500 employees or more.
  • ** The number of workers in a firm is the number of individuals with employment income in that firm, as indicated on a T4 form. The number of workers is adjusted so that each individual in the labour force is only counted once and individuals who work for more than one firm are taken into account. For example, if an employee earned $25,000 in firm 1 and $25,000 in firm 2, then he or she was recorded as 0.5 employees at the first firm and 0.5 employees at the second firm.
  • *** These are based on the number of people receiving EI regular benefits in 2014.
  • Source: ESDC, EI administrative data. Data are based on a 100% sample of EI data; CRA administrative data. CRA data are based on a 100% sample.

Employment Insurance (EI) regular claims and amount paid by EI claimant category

By EI claimant category (see Table 9), frequent claimants accounted for 21.5% of all new EI regular claims established in 2015/2016, a decline of 1.2 percentage points compared to 2014/2015 (22.7%). The number of new EI regular claims established by long-tenured workers rose sharply (+45.3%) over the previous year, leading to a 7.1 percentage point increase in the share of EI regular claims established by this claimant category (from 19.5% in 2014/2015 to 26.6% in 2015/2016).

Table 9 - Employment Insurance regular claims and amount paid by claimant category*, Canada, 2014/2015 to 2015/2016
Claims (Percentage share) Amount paid - $ millions (Percentage share)
2014/2015 2015/2016 Change (%) 2014/2015 2015/2016 Change (%)
Long-tenured workers 261,760 (19.5%) 380,460 (26.6%) +45.3% $2,136.9 (20.1%) $3,141.1 (25.9%) +47.0%
Occasional claimants 776,150 (57.8%) 742,840 (51.9%) -4.3% $5,735.6 (54.1%) $6,118.7 (50.5%) +6.7%
Frequent claimants 304,700 (22.7%) 307,790 (21.5%) +1.0% $2,729.5 (25.8%) $2,862.3 (23.6%) +4.9%
Canada 1,342,610 (100.0%) 1,431,090 (100.0%) +6.6% $10,602.0 (100.0%) $12,122.2 (100.0%) +14.3%
  • Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding. Includes all claims for which at least $1 in EI regular benefits was paid.
  • * See Annex 2.1 for definitions of claimant categories referenced in this table.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data, based on a 10% sample.

The increase in claims established by long-tenured workers marks a reversal of a gradual downward trend observed since the 2008/2009 recession (see Chart 10). Even so, the number of EI regular claims established by long-tenured workers in 2015/2016 (approximately 380,500) remained below the peak reported in 2008/2009 (519,800). The amount paid to long-tenured workers ($3.1 billion) increased by 47.0% compared to 2014/2015 ($2.1 billion), but also remains below the peak of $5.1 billion paid to this claimant category in 2009/2010 (see Chart 11). While the share of claims established by occasional claimants has increased between 2008/2009 and 2014/2015, the 2015/2016 fiscal year saw the share of occasional claimants decline for the first time since 2011/2012 and was the only claimant category that reported a decline (-4.3%) in the number of new claims established.

Chart 10 - Employment Insurance regular claims, by claimant category*, Canada, 2008/2009 to 2015/2016
Chart 10 - Employment Insurance regular claims, by claimant category*, Canada, 2008/2009 to 2015/2016
Show data table
2008/2009 2009/2010 2010/2011 2011/2012 2012/2013 2013/2014 2014/2015 2015/2016
Long-tenured workers  31.6% 30.0% 24.0% 25.6% 23.3% 21.5% 19.5% 26.6%
Occasional claimants  50.6% 51.4% 53.9% 51.8% 53.1% 55.1% 57.8% 51.9%
Frequent claimants  17.8% 18.6% 22.1% 22.6% 23.6% 23.4% 22.7% 21.5%
  • Note: Includes all claims for which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • * See Annex 2.1 for definitions of claimant categories referenced in this chart.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data
Chart 11 - Employment Insurance regular claims amount paid by claimant category*, Canada, 2008/2009 to 2015/2016
Chart 11 - Employment Insurance regular claims amount paid by claimant category*, Canada, 2008/2009 to 2015/2016
Show data table
Amount paid ($ billions)
2008/2009 2009/2010 2010/2011 2011/2012 2012/2013 2013/2014 2014/2015 2015/2016
Long-tenured workers $3.0 $5.1 $4.4 $3.2 $2.7 $2.4 $2.1 $3.1
Occasional claimants  $4.8 $6.9 $5.7 $5.2 $5.0 $5.3 $5.7 $6.1
Frequent claimants  $2.2 $2.7 $2.7 $2.8 $2.8 $2.7 $2.7 $2.9
  • Note: Includes all claims for which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • * See Annex 2.1 for definitions of claimant categories referenced in this chart.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

All claimant categories reported increases in amounts paid in 2015/2016, with the largest increase in claim payments reported for long-tenured workers (+47.0%), followed by occasional claimants (+6.7%) and frequent claimants (+4.9%).

A recent departmental study Footnote 28 examined labour market displacement among first-time claimants, and subsequent trends in earnings. In 14% of the cases, first-time claimants did not report earnings in the four years following their initial displacement. The majority of first-time claimants with earnings (62%) did not established an EI claim in the four subsequent years, 31% established one or two subsequent claims and 7% three or more claims. This study also found that first-time claimants with no subsequent EI usage generally experienced the largest immediate earning loss, but also exhibited stronger recovering abilities in term of employment earnings over time, while those with three or more subsequent EI claims had the smallest immediate earning loss and showed limited recovery of earnings over time.

Employment Insurance (EI) regular claims by hours of insurable employment and by unemployment rate in the EI economic region of establishment

The unemployment rate in an EI economic region determines the number of hours of insurable employment needed to qualify for EI, known as the Variable Entrance Requirement (VER). The higher the unemployment rate in a given region, the lower the number of hours needed to qualify for EI regular benefits (see Annex 2.2). More information on eligibility and access to EI regular benefits is available under Section 2.2 (Employment Insurance Regular Benefits: Coverage, Eligibility and Access).

Note: Variable entrance requirement

In order to establish a benefit period a worker must accumulate between 420 to 700 hours of insurable employment in the qualifying period depending on the applicable regional rate of unemployment. The higher the regional rate of unemployment, the lower the number of hours of insurable employment required as follows:

Unemployment rate Entrance requirement
6.0% and under 700 hours
6.1% to 7.0% 665 hours
7.1% to 8.0% 630 hours
8.1% to 9.0% 595 hours
9.1% to 10.0% 560 hours
10.1% to 11.0% 525 hours
11.1% to 12.0% 490 hours
12.1% to 13.0% 455 hours
More than 13.0% 420 hours

In 2015/2016, consistent with previous years, a high proportion of EI regular claims were made by claimants who had accumulated 1,820 hours or more of insurable employment during their qualifying period (27.7%), an increase of 1.3 percentage points compared to 2014/2015. This is the highest share of claimants reported in this category in the past five years (see Table 10), but is still below the level recorded in 2008/2009 (31.1%). The nature of the economic downturn in 2008/2009 and more recently in 2015/2016 resulted in an increased proportion of new claimants who had longer labour market attachment (i.e. long-tenured workers) and therefore greater opportunity during their employment period to accumulate more hours of employment in the qualifying period.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the proportion of claimants who accumulated less than 700 hours of insurable employment has declined every year since 2010/2011 (though the actual number of new claims established with less than 700 hours did increase from 2014/2015 to 2015/2016). This is partially attributable to the gradual decrease of the unemployment rate over time in many EI economic regions, which consequently increased the number of hours needed to qualify for the program in these regions.

Chart 12 depicts the average number of hours of insurable employment per claim that qualified for EI benefits, which increased in every year from 2010/2011 (1,338 hours) to 2015/2016 (1,393 hours). Hours of insurable employment per claim fluctuates by province and is also subject to local labour market conditions. For example, the number of insurable hours in Atlantic Canada and the territories tend to be lower than in other areas—in 2015/2016, the region with the lowest average number of insurable hours among claimants was Nunavut (1,134), while claims established in Alberta had the highest average number of hours (1,561).

Table 10 - Distribution of Employment Insurance regular claims by hours of insurable employment, Canada, 2011/2012 to 2015/2016 (count and % share of Employment Insurance regular claims)
2011/2012 2012/2013 2013/2014 2014/2015 2015/2016
Less than 700 hours 87,020 (6.1%) 74,780 (5.5%) 68,880 (5.2%) 64,390 (4.8%) 67,170 (4.7%)
700 to 979 hours 231,750 (16.3%) 210,690 (15.5%) 201,280 (15.2%) 203,690 (15.2%) 207,610 (14.5%)
980 to 1,259 hours 276,750 (19.5%) 261,440 (19.3%) 252,600 (19.1%) 256,210 (19.1%) 264,500 (18.5%)
1,260 to 1,539 hours 254,250 (17.9%) 249,250 (18.4%) 244,230 (18.4%) 245,530 (18.3%) 260,870 (18.2%)
1,540 to 1,819 hours 230,410 (16.2%) 223,640 (16.5%) 219,660 (16.6%) 218,840 (16.3%) 235,120 (16.4%)
1,820 hours and more 342,090 (24.1%) 337,010 (24.8%) 339,150 (25.6%) 353,950 (26.4%) 395,820 (27.7%)
Canada 1,422,270 (100.0%) 1,356,810 (100.0%) 1,325,810 (100.0%) 1,342,610 (100.0%) 1,431,090 (100.0%)
  • Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding. Includes all claims for which at least $1 in EI regular benefits was paid.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.
Chart 12 - Average number of hours of insurable employment for regular claims by gender, Canada, 2008/2009 to 2015/2016
Chart 12 - Average number of hours of insurable employment for regular claims by gender, Canada, 2008/2009 to 2015/2016
Show data table
2008/2009 2009/2010 2010/2011 2011/2012 2012/2013 2013/2014 2014/2015 2015/2016
Men 1,446 1,385 1,358 1,377 1,393 1,400 1,406 1,418
Women 1,357 1,325 1,309 1,315 1,328 1,338 1,342 1,353
Canada 1,413 1,362 1,338 1,352 1,367 1,376 1,381 1,393
  • Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding. Includes all claims for which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

The average number of hours of insurable employment also fluctuates by gender and by age. Results for 2015/2016 show that claims made by men had, on average, 65 more hours of insurable employment than claims established for women (1,418 hours and 1,353 hours, respectively). This gap has remained constant over the last five years. Results by age show that claimants aged 55 years and over continued to accumulate the lowest number of hours of insurable employment on average in 2015/2016 (1,320 hours), while those between 25 and 44 years of age accumulated the highest average number of hours (1,428).

Table 11 shows the distribution of new EI regular claims by the regional unemployment rate, which is sensitive to prevailing economic conditions and the movement of EI regions into different unemployment rate categories over the course of the year. While the percentage of new EI regular claims established in EI economic regions with an unemployment rate of 6.0% or lower was 20.4% in 2014/2015, it decreased to 15.2% in 2015/2016. The most significant increase in claims by regional unemployment rate occurred for regions with unemployment rates of 6.1% to 7.0%, whose share of total claims in 2015/2016 increased by 13.6 percentage points over 2014/2015.

Table 11 - Distribution of Employment Insurance regular claims by regional unemployment rate*, Canada, 2011/2012 to 2015/2016 (count and % share of Employment Insurance regular claims)
2011/2012 2012/2013 2013/2014 2014/2015 2015/2016
0.1% to 6.0% 182,290 (12.8%) 199,610 (14.7%) 187,910 (14.2) 273,380 (20.4%) 218,020 (15.2%)
6.1% to 7.0% 163,980 (11.5%) 159,140 (11.7%) 196,410 (14.8%) 158,060 (11.8%) 363,660 (25.4%)
7.1% to 8.0% 165,330 (11.6%) 177,020 (13.1%) 259,710 (19.6%) 329,870 (24.6%) 279,030 (19.5%)
8.1% to 9.0% 463,540 (32.6%) 441,350 (32.5%) 327,910 (24.7%) 236,460 (17.6%) 216,290 (15.1%)
9.1% to 10.0% 138,570 (9.7%) 100,260 (7.4%) 45,870 (3.5%) 78,450 (5.8%) 75,660 (5.3%)
10.1% to 11.0% 64,650 (4.6%) 49,340 (3.6%) 84,810 (6.4%) 55,950 (4.2%) 50,430 (3.5%)
11.1% to 12.0% 48,980 (3.4%) 43,320 (3.2%) 52,390 (4.0%) 44,380 (3.3%) 16,740 (1.2%)
12.1% to 13.0% 26,520 (1.9%) 19,890 (1.5%) 10,030 (0.8%) 7,660 (0.6%) 43,880 (3.1%)
13.1% to 14.0% 20,130 (1.4%) 27,860 (2.1%) 6,620 (0.5%) 470 (0.0%) 16,910 (1.2%)
14.1% to 15.0% 20,290 (1.4%) 17,740 (1.3%) 20,030 (1.5%) 25,870 (1.9%) 23,650 (1.7%)
15.1% to 16.0% 30,080 (2.1%) 21,730 (1.6%) 57,470 (4.3%) 25,100 (1.9%) 31,980 (2.2%)
16.1% or higher 97,910 (6.9%) 99,550 (7.3%) 76,650 (5.8%) 106,960 (8.0%) 94,840 (6.6%)
Canada 1,422,270 (100.0%) 1,356,810 (100.0%) 1,325,810 (100.0%) 1,342,610 (100.0%) 1,431,090 (100.0%)
  • Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding. Includes all claims for which at least $1 in EI regular benefits was paid.
  • * Unemployment rates used for the Employment Insurance program are a moving average of seasonally adjusted rates of unemployment produced by Statistics Canada, as per section 17 of the Employment Insurance Regulations.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

Upward pressures on the unemployment rates of EI regions in Alberta and Ontario in part led to the increased incidence of EI regular claims established in the unemployment rate threshold of “6.1% to 7.0%”, as 40.3% of claims established in Alberta (or roughly 69,300 out of 167,800) and 36.7% of claims established in Ontario (or roughly 143,200 out of 390,800) were in EI regions falling within that range at the time of the claim’s establishment in 2015/2016.

2.2 Employment Insurance regular benefits: coverage, eligibility and access

Unemployed individuals in Canada are eligible to establish a claim for EI regular benefits if they meet three core eligibility requirements: the claimant must have had insurable employment and paid EI premiums within the previous 12 months; the reason for a job separation must be valid according to the Employment Insurance Act, such as a layoff or a quit for just cause; and a claimant must have worked a minimum number of insurable hours within their qualifying period—defined as either the previous 52 weeks or since the establishment of their last claim, whichever is shorter—based on either the regional unemployment rate (420 to 700 hours) or the claimant’s status as a new entrant or re-entrant (910 hours). This section reviews the results of Statistics Canada’s Employment Insurance Coverage Survey (EICS) to assess eligibility and access for EI regular benefits. Footnote 29

Note: New Entrants and Re-Entrants (NEREs)

Between July 1979 and July 2016, workers with low levels of labour market attachment in the 52-week period before their qualifying period were subject to a higher eligibility threshold for EI regular and fishing benefits with respect to insurable employment.

From January 1997 to the elimination of these provisions on July 3, 2016, NEREs had to accumulate 910 hours of insurable employment within their qualifying period to be eligible for benefits regardless of the Variable Entrance Requirement.

Though introduced to promote labour market attachment and discourage reliance, a 2011 summative evaluation* of the provisions found them ineffective in achieving their stated objective and disproportionately affecting youth and recent immigrants. While it has since been eliminated, analysis in this section is for a period when NERE provisions were still in effect.

  • * HRSDC, Summative Evaluation of New Entrants and Re-Entrants (Ottawa: HRSDC, Evaluation Directorate, 2011).

Chart 13 outlines the characteristics of the unemployed population in Canada for 2015 in relation to their eligibility criteria for EI regular benefits. According to the 2015 EICS, the average monthly number of unemployed individuals in Canada was 1,299,100. Among those unemployed individuals, 848,300 had paid EI premiums in the previous 12 months before becoming unemployed, representing 65.3% of all unemployed people, an increase of 4.3 percentage points over 2014 (61.0%). There were 450,900 individuals who did not contribute to EI in the previous 12 months, representing 34.7% of the unemployed—down 4.3 percentage points from 2014 (39.0%). Chart 13 also provides a summary of the distribution of unemployed based on whether they contributed EI premiums, job separation type, whether they worked sufficient hours to be eligible for EI and whether they received EI benefits.

Chart 13 - Unemployed and EI regular benefit eligibility, 2015
Chart 13 - Unemployes and EI regular benefit eligibility, 2015
Show data table
(U) Total unemployed: 1,299,100 (100%)
(A) Unemployed without hours of insurable employment 450,900 (34.7%) A1 — Did not work in previous 12 months or never worked: 398,300 (30.7%)
A2 — Self-employed and unpaid family workers: 52,500 (4.0%)
(B) Premium-paying unemployed with invalid reasons for separation 160,600 (12.4%) B1 — Quit without a just cause – other reasons: 100,900 (7.8%)
B2 — Quit to go to school: 59,700 (4.6%)
(C) Potentially eligible unemployed 118,300 (9.1%) C1 — Did not have sufficient insurable hours: 118,300 (9.1%)
(D) Eligible unemployed 569,400 (43.8%) D1 — Receiving EI regular benefits: 378,200 (29.1%)
D2 — Benefits temporarily interrupted or waiting to receive benefits: 102,400 (7.9%)
D3 — Did not claim or receive benefits for unknown reasons: 41,800 (3.2%)
D4 — Exhausted EI benefits in past 12 months: 39,200 (3.0%)
D5 — Receiving non-regular EI benefits: 7,800 (0.6%)
  • Note: Totals may not add up to due to rounding.
  • Sources: Statistics Canada, Employment Insurance Coverage Survey and Labour Force Survey, 2015.

Note: Characteristics of unemployed EI non-contributors versus contributors

Analysis of microdata for the 2015 EICS survey respondents found that among the unemployed non-contributor population, approximately 180,300 (40.0% of the non-contributor unemployed population) reported that their current household income was not able to meet day-to-day costs of living, while a total of 400,000 EI contributors (47.2% of all EI contributors) also were not able to meet daily living expenses. When compared to the EI non-contributor population as a whole, EI non-contributors not meeting their day-to-day living expenses were more likely to be 25 years old or older (96.5% vs. 67.7%), more likely to have post-secondary certification (58.1% vs. 46.1%) and more likely to be reliant on social assistance (17.0% vs. 9.0%).

It was also found that half (49.5%) of EI non-contributors unable to meet daily living expenses were aged 45 years and older.

EI contributors as a share of all unemployed persons has been declining over time (see Table 12), potentially attributable to ongoing structural changes in the labour market in terms of the type and duration of work. The number of unemployed with valid job separations in 2015 was 52.9%, an increase of 6.8 percentage points compared to 2014 (46.1%). The share of unemployed workers who reported valid job separations had been in decline until a sizeable increase in 2015—with the reverse being true for unemployed individuals with invalid job separations.

Table 12 - Distribution of the unemployed by Employment Insurance eligibility characteristics, Canada, 2011 to 2015 (Count and % share* of total unemployed, by calendar year)
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Non-contributors 478,000 (35.5%) 501,400 (38.3%) 492,600 (37.5%) 491,500 (39.0%) 450,900 (34.7%)
EI contributors 866,700 (64.5%) 808,400 (61.7%) 819,700 (62.5%) 768,000 (61.0%) 848,300 (65.3%)
Invalid job separations 171,400 (12.7%) 179,500 (13.7%) 195,600 (14.9%) 187,400 (14.9%) 160,600 (12.4%)
Valid job separations 695,300 (51.7%) 628,800 (48.0%) 624,100 (47.6%) 580,500 (46.1%) 687,700 (52.9%)
Insufficient hours for EI 150,100 (11.2%) 113,700 (8.7%) 88,500 (6.7%) 97,900 (7.8%) 118,300 (9.1%)
Sufficient hours for EI 545,200 (40.5%) 515,100 (39.3%) 535,600 (40.8%) 482,600 (38.3%) 569,400 (43.8%)
Total unemployed (Canada) 1,344,700 (100.0%) 1,309,700 (100.0%) 1,312,400 (100.0%) 1,259,500 (100.0%) 1,299,100 (100.0%)
  • Note: Total may not add up due to rounding.
  • *Defined as the total share of unemployed persons, regardless of eligibility, who did not receive EI benefits (including both regular and special benefits) in the year reviewed.
  • Source: Statistics Canada, Employment Insurance Coverage Survey, 2015.

Between 2011 and 2014, the share of the unemployed population who were EI contributors with a valid job separation and who also reported working a sufficient number of hours to qualify for EI benefits has remained fairly consistent over time, while those with insufficient number of hours has increased in every year since 2013. EI contributors with a valid job separation and sufficient insurable hours to qualify for EI benefits represented 43.8% of the total unemployed in 2015, an increase of 5.5 percentage points compared to 2014 (38.3%) and the highest share since 2010 (44.4%). Those with insufficient hours for EI benefits but who met other eligibility requirements were 9.1% of the unemployed in 2015, an increase of 1.3 percentage points compared to 2014 (7.8%) and the highest rate reported for this category since 2011.

Coverage of Employment Insurance regular benefits

From the perspective of EI regular benefits, participation in the EI program is contingent on the contribution of EI premiums in the 12 months prior to submitting a claim through the accumulation of insurable hours of employment during a claimant’s qualifying period. While the actual receipt of EI benefits is subject to further eligibility requirements, the number of unemployed individuals who paid EI premiums in the previous 12 months is an important factor in determining the program’s overall coverage of the unemployed population.

The increase in the share of the unemployed covered by the EI program, in that they were EI contributors, represents a slight reversal in the downward trend observed since 2009 (see Chart 14) in the share of EI contributors among the unemployed. Higher EI coverage rates of the unemployed tend to occur during economic downturns, as slowing economic activity leads to layoffs that increase the number of unemployed contributors.

Chart 14 - Share of unemployed defined as Employment Insurance contributors, Canada, 2007 to 2015
Chart 14 - Share of unemployed defined as Employment Insurance contributors, Canada, 2007 to 2015
Show data table
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Employment Insurance contributors (% share) 70.0% 70.1% 70.3% 64.7% 64.5% 61.7% 62.5% 61.0% 65.3%
  • Source: Statistics Canada, Employment Insurance coverage survey, 2015
Chart 15 - Share of unemployed defined as Employment Insurance non-contributors by type of non-contributor, Canada, 2007 to 2015
Chart 15 - Share of unemployed defined as Employment Insurance non-contributors by type of non-contributor, Canada, 2007 to 2015
Show data table
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Total Employment Insurance non-contributors 30.0% 29.9% 29.7% 35.3% 35.5% 38.3% 37.5% 39.0% 34.7%
Have no recent insurable employment (e.g. Self-employed and unpaid family workers) 5.2% 4.4% 4.9% 3.0% 3.4% 4.4% 4.5% 4.4% 4.0%
Have not worked in the previous 12 months (Excluding those who have never worked) 17.6% 18.3% 18.3% 24.1% 25.0% 24.6% 24.3% 23.3% 21.4%
Have never worked 7.2% 7.2% 6.5% 8.3% 7.1% 9.3% 8.8% 11.4% 9.3%
  • Source: Statistics Canada, Employment Insurance Coverage Survey, 2015

While there was also a noticeable decline in the share of unemployed who stated they had never worked (-2.0 percentage points) between 2014 and 2015 and those who had been without work for more than 12 months (-1.9 percentage points), the long-term trend, as discussed in Chapter I has been toward a greater share of the unemployed within these categories (see Chart 15). Those without insurable employment—such as the self-employed and unpaid family workers—have had their share of job separators remain relatively constant over time, declining slightly (-0.4 percentage points) between 2015 (4.0%) and 2014 (4.4%).

Table 13 - Employment Insurance coverage rates by region, gender and age, Canada, 2015
Unemployed contributors as a share of total unemployed (UC/U)
Region
Atlantic* 81.0%
Quebec 67.1%
Ontario 57.0%
Prairies** 71.2%
British Columbia 67.2%
Gender
Men 69.3%
Women 59.4%
Age category
24 years and under 54.4%
25 to 44 years 67.3%
45 years and over 70.4%
Age category and gender
Youth (15 to 24), men and women 54.4%
25 years and over, men 72.8%
25 years and over, women 62.8%
Canada 65.3%
  • Note: Totals may not add-up due to rounding.
  • * The Atlantic Region includes the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador (87.2%), Prince Edward Island (86.1%), New Brunswick (81.9%) and Nova Scotia (71.9%).
  • ** The Prairie Region includes the provinces of Manitoba (67.2%), Saskatchewan (77.3%) and Alberta (71.0%).
  • Source: Statistics Canada, Employment Insurance Coverage Survey, 2015.

Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia reported the lowest shares of unemployed persons who paid EI contributions in 2015, while Newfoundland and Labrador (87.2%) and Prince Edward Island (86.1%) reported the highest (see Table 13). On the basis of gender, in 2015 a larger share of unemployed men contributed EI premiums, at 69.3%, than unemployed women at 59.4%. By age, unemployed persons aged 45 years and over reported having the largest share of unemployed persons who were EI contributors in 2015.

The 2015 EICS estimated that among the 1,299,100 unemployed individuals there were 848,300 who had paid EI premiums in the 12 months prior to becoming unemployed. The share of EI contributors among the unemployed population was 65.3% in 2015, an increase of 4.3 percentage points over 2014 (61.0%). By definition, this represents a contraction of the EI non-contributors share, which includes those who were self-employed (52,500 or 4.0% of the unemployed in 2015), those who had not worked in the previous 12 months (277,800 or 21.5% of the unemployed) and those who have never worked (120,500 or 9.3% of the unemployed).

Eligibility for Employment Insurance regular benefits

As noted above, Canada’s unemployed are eligible to establish a claim for EI regular benefits if they meet three core eligibility requirements: paid EI premiums within the previous 12 months; a valid job separation; and worked a minimum number of insurable hours within their qualifying period—defined as either the previous 52 weeks or since the establishment of their last claim, whichever is shorter—based on either the regional unemployment rate (420 to 700 hours) or the claimant’s status as a new entrant or re-entrant (910 hours).

The results of the 2015 EICS estimate that 687,700 unemployed persons (equivalent to 52.9% of the unemployed population as a whole) paid EI premiums within the preceding 12 months and had a valid job separation, making them potentially eligible for EI regular benefits. This represents the bulk of the EI contributor population and excludes those with reasons for job separations that did not meet the EI program’s eligibility requirements including: 59,700 (4.6% of all unemployed) who quit their jobs to return to school and 100,900 (7.8% of the unemployed) who quit their jobs without just cause or became unemployed for other reasons not meeting the eligibility requirements of the EI program. 2015 marked the first time since 2011 that a majority of the total number of unemployed individuals were potentially eligible for EI benefits. This change is attributable to the sizeable increase in the unemployed who reported having worked in insurable employment and had a valid job separation (+107,200 persons) versus a more modest increase in EI contributors who separated from a job without a valid reason.

Chart 16 - Eligibility rate for Employment Insurance regular benefits, Canada, 2006 to 2015
Chart 16 - Eligibility rate for Employment Insurance regular benefits, Canada, 2006 to 2015
Show data table
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Canada 82.7% 82.3% 82.1% 86.2% 83.9% 78.4% 81.9% 85.8% 83.1% 82.8%
  • Source: Statistics Canada, Employment Insurance Coverage Survey, 2015

For 2015, the EI eligibility rate—the share of the potentially eligible unemployed population with enough insurable hours to qualify for EI benefits—was 82.8%, which represented a small decrease of 0.3 percentage points compared to 2014 (83.1%) with 569,400 individuals (43.8% of the unemployed) considered eligible out of a total population of 687,700 EI contributors with a valid job separation in 2015. The EI eligibility rate tends to fluctuate modestly with changes in the labour market responding to wider business cycle fluctuations, but has been relatively stable over the past decade as eligibility rates in recent years (e.g. 2013 to 2015) are similar to those observed prior to the recession that began in 2008 (see Chart 16).

Another important consideration related to EI regular benefit eligibility is that claimants accumulate varying hours of insurable employment. Among those who were not just eligible, but who also successfully established a claim, EI administrative data indicates they accumulate hours well beyond the minimum requirement under the Variable Entrance Requirement (VER) provision. In 2015/2016, only 3.1% of regular claimants had qualified with insurable hours near the minimum entrance requirement, defined as being within 70 hours of the VER.

These claimants have consistently represented a small share of all EI regular claimants even as the actual number of claimants that make up this category fluctuates with economic cycles and local labour market conditions. Chart 17 outlines the variation in the number of eligible regular claimants who qualify near the minimum entrance requirement, which fluctuated from a low of 40,200 in 2013/2014 to a high of 49,200 in 2011/2012 and was 44,300 in 2015/2016. In general, claimants qualifying within 70 hours of their VER are disproportionately found in EI regions with higher rates of unemployment (12.1% or greater) which could be partly attributable to the importance of seasonal employment in those EI economic regions and the discrete period available to accumulate insurable hours for workers in those industries.

A recent departmental study was developed to examine—based on Record of Employment (ROE) data—the percentage of unemployed persons with enough insurable hours to meet the VER from 2001 to 2015. The study found those who reported recent laid-off job separations with enough combined hours from all jobs worked during their 52 week qualification period declined over the time period reviewed, from 71.7% in 2001 to 66.4% in 2015. Similarly, the number of laid-off job separators who received EI benefits as a share of all laid-off job separators with enough hours of insurable employment also declined, from 79.2% to 64.8% in 2015. Footnote 30 This may not fully reflect potential eligibility, particularly among those who do not attempt to establish a claim, multiple job holders or previous employment can result in uncounted insurable hours if an ROE is not generated.

The share of laid-off job separators with enough insurable hours of employment and the eligibility rate of this population for EI regular benefits were generally higher for higher unemployment rates in a given year. The study also found that workers in some industry sectors, in particular those in Retail Trade, reported over time consistently higher probability of workers having sufficient hours to meet the VER for EI regular benefits. Footnote 31

Chart 17 - Employment Insurance regular claims qualifying within 70 hours of the minimum entrance requirement, Canada, 2011/2012 to 2015/2016
Chart 17 - Employment Insurance regular claims qualifying within 70 hours of the minimum entrance requirement, Canada, 2011/2012 to 2015/2016
Show data table
2011/2012 2012/2013 2013/2014 2014/2015 2015/2016
Claims as a share of all EI regular claims (right scale) 3.5% 3.1% 3.0% 3.0% 3.1%
Level of EI regular claims (left scale) 49,200 42,400 40,200 40,800 44,300
  • Note: Includes claims for which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.
Eligibility for Employment Insurance regular benefits by province

In 2015, sub-national eligibility rates ranged from a low of 75.2% in British Columbia to a high of 96.2% in New Brunswick (see Table 14). Compared with 2014 EICS figures, the EI eligibility rate decreased in six out of ten provinces. The largest decreases occurred in Manitoba (-8.5 percentage points) and Quebec (-2.8 percentage points). New Brunswick (+5.7 percentage points), Saskatchewan (+4.5 percentage points) and Ontario (+3.8 percentage points) showed the largest increases in provincial eligibility rates.

Table 14 - Employment Insurance eligibility rates by province, Canada, 2011 to 2015 (Share (%) of all unemployed identifying as EI contributors)
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Average 2011 to 2015
Newfoundland and Labrador 93.3% 93.5% 93.9% 94.1% 93.7% 93.7%
Prince Edward Island 91.0% 92.8% 94.4% 93.4% 92.7% 92.9%
Nova Scotia 91.6% 88.5% 94.8% 81.2% 82.3% 87.7%
New Brunswick 87.9% 92.4% 96.4% 90.5% 96.2% 92.7%
Quebec 76.9% 81.2% 86.1% 84.3% 81.5% 82.0%
Ontario 74.3% 79.7% 83.1% 81.0% 84.8% 80.6%
Manitoba 73.5% 82.0% 85.6% 91.4% 82.9% 83.1%
Saskatchewan 83.8% 81.2% 82.3% 85.4% 89.9% 84.5%
Alberta 78.2% 69.4% 87.9% 80.4% 78.6% 78.9%
British Columbia 80.5% 86.4% 81.5% 77.3% 75.2% 80.2%
Canada 78.4% 81.9% 85.8% 83.1% 82.8% 82.4%
  • Source: Statistics Canada, Employment Insurance coverage survey, 2015.

Between 2011 and 2015, Alberta (18.5 percentage points), Manitoba (17.9 percentage points) and Nova Scotia (13.6 percentage points) have experienced the greatest variability in terms of EI eligibility rates, while Newfoundland and Labrador (0.8 percentage points) and Prince Edward Island (3.4 percentage points) reported the greatest degree of stability.

Eligibility for Employment Insurance regular benefits by gender and age

Given that EI eligibility rates are sensitive to economic conditions and the prevalence of specific employment patterns during the qualifying period (e.g. the incidence of full-time versus part-time hours, permanent versus temporary employment, etc.), demographic and regional labour force characteristics will result in significant variation in eligibility outcomes across the country (see Table 15). While gender differences in eligibility rates have historically reflected different employment characteristics among men and women, as a higher proportion of men hold full-time and/or permanent jobs in Canada and women tend to be over-represented among those working in part-time and/or temporary jobs, women reported a higher eligibility rate than men in 2015. The eligibility rate of men was 82.0% in 2015, a 2.0 percentage point decline compared to 2014 (84.0%), which was itself a decline from the eligibility rate of 89.8% reported in 2013. The eligibility rate for women increased to 84.3%, climbing 3.0 percentage points over 2014 (81.3%), which was also an increase compared to results for 2013 (80.0%).

Table 15 - Employment Insurance eligibility rates by gender and age, Canada, 2015 (Share (%) of all unemployed by gender and age identifying as eligible EI contributors)
Eligibility rate
Gender
Men 82.0%
Women 84.3%
Age category
24 years and under 54.0%
25 to 44 years 82.1%
45 years and over 90.7%
Canada 82.8%
  • Source: Statistics Canada, Employment Insurance coverage survey, 2015.

By age, those 45 years old and older had the highest eligibility rate in 2015 at 90.7%, while youth (those aged 15 to 24 years old) reported the lowest eligibility rate (54.0%), which likely reflects lower labour force attachment. Even so, youth aged 15 to 24 years old reported the largest increase in EI eligibility (+10.0 percentage points), while those 25 to 44 years old reported the largest decline (-4.8 percentage points) in eligibility compared to 2014.

Eligibility for Employment Insurance regular benefits by type of employment

In 2015, a total of 389,800 unemployed (56.7% of all unemployed who contributed premiums and who reported a valid job separation) were classified as permanent employees in their previous job and 286,000 (41.6% of unemployed contributors with a valid job separation) identified as temporary employees. Among the 569,400 persons who were determined to be eligible for EI benefits, 61.6% were permanent workers while 36.3% were classified as temporary employees. Under the EI Program’s eligibility requirements, previous employment characteristics significantly influence the EI eligibility rate. Intuitively, unemployed workers who formerly held full-time positions have higher rates of eligibility given their increased likelihood of working enough hours of insurable employment to qualify for EI regular benefits than part-time workers. Similarly, those who had permanent positions also report higher rates of eligibility compared to those who work in jobs classified as temporary employment. The gap between these groups can vary significantly based on labour market conditions and in the previous five years ranged from a low of 9.9 percentage points in 2014 to a high of 20.0 percentage points in 2010. In 2015, the eligibility rate of permanent employees was 90.1%, while the eligibility rate of temporary employees was 72.2%—a gap of 17.9 percentage points (see Chart 18).

Chart 18 - Employment Insurance eligibility rate by previous employment characteristics, Canada, 2008 to 2015
Chart 18 - Employment Insurance eligibility rate by previous employment characteristics, Canada, 2008 to 2015
Show data table
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
All workers  82.1% 86.2% 83.9% 78.4% 81.9% 85.8% 83.1% 82.8%
Permanent workers  87.6% 92.2% 92.4% 87.2% 89.9% 91.4% 87.7% 90.1%
Temporary workers 73.5% 75.3% 72.3% 68.3% 72.2% 79.0% 77.7% 72.2%
  • Source: Statistics Canada, Employment Insurance coverage survey, 2015
Chart 19 - Employment Insurance eligibility rate by previous employment characteristics, Canada, 2008 to 2015
Chart 19 - Employment Insurance eligibility rate by previous employment characteristics, Canada, 2008 to 2015
Show data table
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Permanent full-time workers 92.7% 94.3% 94.5% 91.2% 94.6% 95.0% 90.1% 93.3%
Permanent part-time workers 47.7% 68.8% 74.4% 54.9% 65.2% 71.4% 66.2% 65.8%
Temporary seasonal workers 85.0% 81.4% 83.6% 81.2% 75.6% 85.0% 84.6% 82.6%
Temporary non-seasonal workers 63.8% 70.5% 64.7% 60.0% 69.8% 74.5% 73.0% 64.0%
  • Source: Statistics Canada, Employment Insurance coverage survey, 2015

The experience within these classifications is far from uniform (see Chart 19), as some temporary workers—namely seasonal employees—have eligibility rates consistently above part-time permanent employees and not far below full-time permanent employees. The unemployed who worked in temporary work arrangements—such as contractual, term and other non-seasonal work—reported a similar eligibility rate (64.0%) to those that worked in permanent part-time jobs (65.8%) in 2015 and both have experienced sizeable fluctuations over the past seven years.

Note: Comparing eligibility trends: The Employment Insurance coverage survey and the Labour Force Survey

While the EICS provides a strong baseline estimate of the potential eligibility of unemployed workers for EI benefits, the survey design is only limited to those who self-identified as unemployed during the survey sampling period. One study using the Labour Force Survey (LFS) measured the proportion of employees in Canada who would have had sufficient hours of insurable employment over the qualifying period to meet variable entrance requirements if all workers had been laid off in the year studied (i.e., during the 12 months of the calendar year).

The LFS-based simulations suggested that 88.5% of individuals who were working as paid employees in 2014 would have been eligible for regular benefits had they lost their job. Employed full-time workers would have been eligible to receive regular benefits 93.6% of the time had they lost their job, compared to 61.0% for employed part-time workers.

  • Source: Constantine Kapsalis, Potential EI Eligibility of Canadian Paid workers Using the Labour Force Survey (Ottawa: Data Probe Economic Consulting Inc., 2015).

Access to Employment Insurance regular benefits

Access to EI regular benefits—which for the purposes of the EI Monitoring and Assessment Report is measured as the share of an unemployed population receiving EI benefits—is a key consideration of how well the program is working to meet the needs of the labour market in providing EI regular benefits to help the unemployed transition to new employment.

Chart 20 compares the two main ratios used to measure accessibility of an unemployed population to those receiving EI regular benefits over the last five years: the Beneficiary-to-Unemployed (B/U) ratio and the Beneficiary-to-Unemployed Contributor (B/UC) ratio.

Chart 20 - Employment Insurance accessibility ratios, Canada, 2014 to 2015
Chart 20 - Employment Insurance accessibility ratios, Canada, 2014 to 2015
Show data table
Beneficiary-to-unemployed (B/U) ratio Beneficiary-to-unemployed contributor (B/UC) ratio
2014 38.6% 63.4%
2015 39.8% 61.0%
  • Sources: Statistics Canada, Employment Insurance Coverage Survey (for data the unemployed (U), and unemployed contributors (UC)); and Statistics Canada, monthly Employment Insurance statistics release, CANSIM Table 276-0020 (for data on regular beneficiaries (B)).

Note: Alternative measures of EI access: The Recipient-to-Separation (R/S) ratio, the Recipient-to-Eligible contributor ratio (R/E) and the Eligible Contributor-to-Unemployed Contributor (E/UC) ratio

An important consideration when discussing eligibility and access to Employment Insurance regular benefits is how accurately the measures used reflect the actual composition of Canada’s unemployment population. Some segments of the unemployed population, such as self-employed workers and others without insurable employment, are not considered eligible for coverage or access to EI regular benefits but are included in the counts of unemployed. The following section outlines alternative measures of accessibility to EI regular benefits.

The recipient-to-separation (R/S) ratio expresses EI recipients as a share of the unemployed population who paid EI premiums and reported a valid job separation. The 2015 R/S ratio was 55.0%, a 1.7 percentage point decrease compared to 2014 (56.7%) and a 3.0 percentage point decrease compared to 2013 (58.0%). The R/S ratio is not directly comparable to either the B/U or B/UC ratio as the Recipient (R) measure is determined by responses to the EICS rather than EI administrative data used to calculate totals for EI Regular Beneficiaries (B).

The Recipient-to-Eligible Contributor (R/E) ratio measures the number of EI Regular Benefit Recipients (R), as reported in the EICS, as a proportion of the number of unemployed defined as Eligible Contributors (E) to the EI program, meaning those who contributed EI premiums, reported having a valid job separation and had enough insurable hours to be eligible for EI regular benefits. In 2015, 66.4% of eligible contributors ended up receiving EI regular benefits, a decline of 1.8 percentage points from the rate observed in 2014. Over the last five years the R/E ratio has varied from a high of 70.3% in 2011 to a low of 65.8% in 2012.

Another measure to assess the level of accessibility of unemployed persons to EI regular benefits is the Eligible Contributor-to-Unemployed Contributor (E/UC) ratio that measures the total for those Eligible (E) to receive EI regular benefits as a share of Unemployed Contributors (UC). Based on EICS results in 2015, 67.1% of unemployed contributors to the EI program were defined as eligible to receive EI benefits, an increase of 4.3 percentage points compared to the rate for 2014. 2015 and 2014 were the highest and lowest rates respectively observed for the E/UC ratio since 2011.

  • Source: Statistics Canada, Employment Insurance coverage survey, 2015
The Beneficiary-to-Unemployed (B/U) ratio

The access measure with the broadest population base is the Beneficiary-to-Unemployed (B/U) ratio where the average number of individuals in receipt of EI regular benefits in the reference week of the EICS is expressed as a share of the corresponding unemployed population. Footnote 32 As such, it includes a sizeable segment of the population considered ineligible for EI regular benefits (such as the number of unemployed who have not worked during the previous year or never worked, who did not have a valid job separation or who were self-employed) and is sensitive to changes in the make-up of the unemployed population and the proportion of the unemployed outside the scope of EI program coverage.

For 2015, the B/U ratio was 39.8%, an increase of 1.2 percentage points compared to results for 2014 (38.6%) and was attributable to faster growth of the EI regular benefit recipients population in 2015 (+6.2%)—particularly in Alberta (as seen in Section 2.1), which was hit hard by the commodity downturn discussed in Chapter I—compared to the overall total unemployed population (+3.1%). This is the second consecutive year that the B/U ratio has increased (see Chart 21).

Chart 21 - Beneficiary-to-Unemployed (B/U) ratio, Canada, 2011 to 2015
Chart 21 - Beneficiary-to-Unemployed (B/U) ratio, Canada, 2011 to 2015
Show data table
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Beneficiaries-to-Unemployed (B/U) Ratio 43.2% 40.6% 38.4% 38.6% 39.8%
  • Note: The B/U ratio is calculated as follows: [number of regular beneficiaries ÷ number of unemployed].
  • Sources: Statistics Canada, Employment Insurance Coverage Survey for data on the unemployed (U); and Statistics Canada, monthly Employment Insurance statistics release, CANSIM Table 276-0020 (for data on regular beneficiaries (B)).

Because of the breadth of the unemployed population considered within the B/U ratio, its movement is more likely to reflect labour market and EI eligibility fluctuations that are not necessarily associated with EI policies, making it less suited to measure access to EI regular benefits. For example, 47.1% of those unemployed were reported as not being covered by the eligibility parameters for EI regular benefits, a decline of 6.8 percentage points compared to results in 2014 (53.9%). Moreover, the small increase in the B/U ratio is despite the fact that the share of the unemployed population defined as eligible contributors to the EI program in 2015 (43.8%) was the highest reported for Canada since 2010 (44.4%) and was significantly higher (+5.5 percentage points) than the share of eligible contributors among the unemployed in 2014 (38.3%).

The Beneficiary-to-Unemployed Contributor (B/UC) ratio

A second measure, known as the beneficiary-to-unemployed contributor (B/UC) ratio is the number of EI regular beneficiaries as a share of the unemployed who contributed EI premiums in the previous 12 months. While a narrower target population than the B/U ratio, it may be a better measure of accessibility for the EI program. This is because the B/UC ratio measures accessibility among unemployed workers who EI regular benefits are designed to provide coverage to and excludes those who are unemployed that did not contribute EI premiums during their last employment period (e.g. the self-employed, those who have not worked in the last twelve months or never worked).

The B/UC ratio for 2015 was 61.0% (see Chart 22), a decline of 2.4 percentage points from the rate reported in 2014 (63.4%). The decline in 2015 is attributable to an increase in the number of unemployed contributors (+10.5%) outpacing growth in the number of EI regular beneficiaries (+6.2%).

Chart 22 - Beneficiary-to-Unemployed Contributor (B/UC) ratio, Canada, 2011 to 2015
Chart 22 - Beneficiary-to-Unemployed Contributor (B/UC) ratio, Canada, 2011 to 2015
Show data table
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Beneficiaries-to-Unemployed Contributors (B/UC) Ratio 67.1% 65.8% 61.5% 63.4% 61.0%
  • Note: The B/UC ratio is calculated as follows: [number regular beneficiaries ÷ number of unemployed who contributed to the EI program].
  • Sources: Statistics Canada, Employment Insurance Coverage Survey (for data on the unemployed contributors (UC)); and Statistics Canada, monthly Employment Insurance statistics release, CANSIM Table 276-0020 (for data on regular beneficiaries (B)).

2.3 Level of Employment Insurance regular benefits

The level of EI regular benefits (i.e., the weekly regular benefit rate) that an EI claimant is entitled to receive is calculated as 55% of their highest (best) weeks of insurable earnings during the qualifying period up to the maximum weekly benefit rate. Under the Variable Best Weeks provision, the number of weeks used to determine the weekly benefit rate varies from 14 to 22 weeks depending on the unemployment rate of the claimant’s EI economic region (see section 1.1 Total EI claim, amount paid and level of benefits).

In 2015/2016, the average weekly regular benefit rate was $446, a 2.8% increase over 2014/2015 ($434) and the first time since 2011/2012 that growth in the average weekly regular benefits was below 3.0%. The average level of EI weekly regular benefits at the provincial and territorial level varied from a high of $507 in the Northwest Territories to a low of $419 in Prince Edward Island in 2015/2016 (see Annex 2.5). Year-over-year, only Nunavut experienced a slight decline in their average level of weekly regular benefits (-0.6%), though other jurisdictions reported increases that were generally lower than those recorded in previous years.

As shown in Table 16, EI regular claims established by claimants between 25 and 44 years old had the highest average weekly EI regular benefit rate in 2015/2016 ($458), while those established by claimants younger than 25 years old had the lowest ($419). The year-over-year increase was highest among claims established by those younger than 25 years old (+3.5% or +$14) and lowest among those established by claimants aged 55 years and older (+2.6% or +$11).

Consistent with the past several years, the average weekly regular benefit rate among men ($470) was much higher than women ($406) in 2015/2016. The gap in the weekly benefit rate between men and women is observable for all hours of insurable employment worked during the qualifying period and is particularly true at lower levels of labour market attachment (see Chart 23). Among men, those 45 years to 54 years old had the highest average weekly regular benefit rate ($482), while it was those between 25 and 44 years old ($421) among women.

Table 16 - Average weekly regular benefit rate by age and gender, Canada, 2014/2015 to 2015/2016
Men Women Total
2014/2015 2015/2016 2014/2015 2015/2016 2014/2015 2015/2016
24 years and under $422 $437 $354 $363 $405 $419
25 to 44 years $466 $479 $410 $421 $445 $458
45 to 54 years $470 $482 $397 $408 $437 $449
55 years and over $448 $459 $375 $385 $420 $431
Canada $458 $470 $395 $406 $434 $446
  • Note: Includes all claims for which at least $1 in EI regular benefits was paid.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.
Chart 23 - Average weekly benefit rate by gender and insurable hours worked, Canada, 2015/2016
Chart 23 - Average weekly benefit rate by gender and insurable hours worked, Canada, 2015/2016
Show data table
Insurable hours worked Men's average weekly benefit rate Women's average weekly benefit rate
Less than 490  366 262
490 to 559  394 297
560 to 629  404 305
630 to 699  408 314
700 to 769  418 319
770 to 839  422 324
840 to 909 436 347
910 to 979 426 344
980 to 1,049 438 360
1,050 to 1,119 446 367
1,120 to 1,189 454 376
1,190 to 1,259 460 396
1,260 to 1,329 464 406
1,330 to 1,399 473 423
1,400 to 1,469 477 445
1,470 to 1,539 479 441
1,540 to 1,609 481 433
1,610 to 1,679 485 432
1,680 to 1,749 486 439
1,750 to 1,819 488 450
1,820 or more 503 461
  • Note: Includes all claims for which at least $1 of EI regular benefits was paid.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

Almost half (49.1%) of regular claimants who established a claim in 2015/2016 were entitled to the maximum weekly benefit rate, but this proportion varied from 36.9% for regular claimants younger than 25 years old to 53.3% for those aged 25 to 44 years old. By gender, 60.1% of men who established a regular claim in 2015/2016 were entitled to the maximum weekly benefit rate compared to only 30.5% of women.

By EI claimant category, long-tenured workers had an average weekly regular benefit rate of $482 in 2015/2016, which compares to $446 for frequent claimants and $428 for occasional claimants (see Table 17). The increase in the overall average weekly EI regular benefit rate is mainly due, in fact, to an increased proportion of long-tenured workers claiming EI regular benefits in 2015/2016 relative to previous years, as the weekly regular benefit rate for all three categories of EI claimants experienced growth that was slower than the average across all EI regular claims. In 2015/2016, a sizeable majority (65.5%) of long-tenured workers who had an EI claim established were entitled to the maximum weekly benefit rate compared to only 47.2% of frequent claimants and 41.4% of occasional claimants.

Table 17 - Average weekly regular benefit rate by claimant category*, Canada, 2014/2015 to 2015/2016
Average weekly benefit rate ($) EI claimants who are entitled to the maximum weekly benefit (%)
2014/2015 2015/2016 Change (%)
Long-tenured workers $472 $482 +2.1% 65.5%
Occasional claimants $420 $428 +1.9% 41.4%
Frequent claimants $436 $446 +2.3% 47.2%
Canada $434 $446 +2.8% 49.1%
  • Note: Includes all claims for which at least $1 in EI regular benefits was paid.
  • * See Annex 2.1 for definitions of claimant categories referenced in this table.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

Note: Claimant obligations to search for and accept suitable employment

In order to receive EI benefits under the Employment Insurance Act, an EI regular benefit claimant—with certain exceptions—must be capable of and available for, but unable to obtain, suitable employment and must demonstrate this by searching for and taking advantage of an opportunity for suitable employment. During the reporting period for the 2015/2016 EI Monitoring and Assessment Report, suitable employment was defined to take into account:

  • considerations of claimant’s health and physical capabilities, religious beliefs, moral convictions, and family obligations;
  • the length of the daily commute;
  • the degree of similarity of the work to previous job, which expands based on time on claim and frequency of past EI use;
  • the level of comparability of earnings with the claimant’s previous employment, but with a declining threshold based on time on claim and frequency of past EI use; and
  • that by accepting the job, the claimant is not in a worse financial situation than while receiving benefits or during the qualifying period (whichever is least favourable).

Legislative and regulatory changes in 2016 further simplified job search responsibilities, but came into force outside the reporting period for the 2015/2016 EI Monitoring and Assessment Report.

In 2015/2016, there were 1,200 disentitlements related to searching for (1,020) and accepting (180) suitable employment,* an increase of 6.2% from the previous year. However, this represented only 0.1% of all disqualifications and disentitlements and does not take into consideration that benefits would have been reinstated once the claimant demonstrated they were fulfilling their responsibility in some situations.

  • * Source: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, CANSIM Table 276-0003.

Benefit repayments in the 2014 tax year*

Claimants with an annual net income-based on “net income before adjustments” from line 234 of the T1 General Income Tax and Benefit Return—that exceeds 125% of the maximum insurable earnings for a taxation year (over $60,750 in 2014) are required to repay the lesser of 30% of total EI benefits they received or 30% of their net income above this threshold. The benefit repayment provision does not apply to special benefits or to claimants who have not received either regular or fishing benefits in the preceding ten taxation years.

For the 2014 taxation year, roughly 166,800 claimants repaid a total of $224.0 million in EI benefits.** It is estimated that, among all claimants other than those who only received special benefits, about 11.9% (or 9.2% of all EI claimants) repaid a portion of their EI benefits received in 2014.

On average, EI claimants subject to the benefit repayment provision repaid $1,343 in 2014; this amount has increased for four consecutive years (see Annex 2.24) and is slightly higher than the amount repaid in 2013 ($1,284). EI claimants who repaid a portion of their benefits had received on average $5,829 in EI benefits (any type of benefits, including EI special benefits) in 2014, which compares to $5,434 in 2013.

  • * 2014 is the most recent taxation year for which data is available.
  • ** Amounts repaid can only be deducted from benefits received, excluding special benefits.

2.4 Employment Insurance regular benefit entitlement

Eligible claimants who have successfully established an EI claim receive up to a set maximum number of weeks of EI regular benefits (known as their entitlement), which is determined by the number of hours of insurable employment worked by the claimant during his or her qualifying period and the effective unemployment rate in the claimant’s EI economic region at the time of establishment (see Annex 2.2 for the entitlement table). This section presents detailed analysis on the duration of EI regular benefits, both maximum entitlement and actual weeks used. Exhaustion of EI regular benefits is discussed in section 2.5 Exhaustion of EI regular benefits.

Maximum and actual duration of Employment Insurance regular benefits Footnote 33

Under most circumstances, the maximum entitlement of EI regular benefits available to an EI claimant is between 14 and 45 weeks, depending on the local unemployment rate and the claimant’s accumulated number of hours of insurable employment during the qualifying period. Footnote 34 Higher maximums are associated with greater hours of insurable employment accumulated during the qualifying period and higher regional unemployment rates. The EI program is designed to respond automatically to changes in economic conditions that affect local labour markets and divides the country into 62 economic regions to that end. In general, when a region’s unemployment rate rises, the entrance requirement is reduced and the maximum duration of benefits increases. Therefore, the amount of assistance provided increases and support adjusts to the changing needs of regions and communities.

The actual duration of a claim is the number of weeks of EI regular benefits an EI claimant receives during a claim. Actual duration is usually much lower than maximum duration, reflecting circumstances that can lead to reduced use of EI regular benefits over a claim’s benefit period (e.g. claimant has found work, switched to special benefits, became unavailable to work, etc.).

The average maximum duration of regular benefits increased from 31.4 weeks in 2014/2015 to 34.0 weeks in 2015/2016 and the average actual duration increased by 0.4 weeks to 19.9 weeks (see Chart 24). Footnote 35 This represents the first time since 2009/2010 that either measure reported an increase and is primarily attributable to the decline in the economic activity in commodity-based regions, as discussed in Chapter 1, which led to higher unemployment rates in several EI economic regions. Moreover, greater average durations recorded in 2015/2016 are also partly attributable to the increased weeks of benefits implemented as part of the Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No.1.

Chart 24 - Average maximum and actual duration of regular benefits and unemployment rate, Canada, 2009/2010 to 2015/2016
Chart 24 - Average maximum and actual duration of regular benefits and unemployment rate, Canada, 2009/2010 to 2015/2016

Show data table

In percent In weeks In weeks
Year Unemployment rate (left scale) Average actual duration of regular benefits (right scale) Average maximum duration of regular benefits (right scale)
2009/2010 8.5% 23.8 42.8
2010/2011 7.9% 21.5 36.0
2011/2012 7.4% 19.9 33.0
2012/2013 7.2% 19.6 32.2
2013/2014 7.0% 19.4 31.7
2014/2015 6.9% 19.5 31.4
2015/2016 7.0% 19.9 34.0
  • Note: Includes all claims for which at leats $1 of regular benefit was paid.
  • * Coincides with the Employment Insurance temporary measures that increased the maximum number of weeks for which regular benefits could be paid.
  • p Preliminary estimates for the figures on actual duration.
  • Sources: ESDC, Employment Insurance administrative data (for data on duration of regular benefits); and Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, CANSIM Table 282-0007 (for data on unemployment rates). ESDC data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

In general, the average maximum duration of regular benefits in 2015/2016 varied significantly across provinces and territories, reflecting differences in labour markets and labour force characteristics. Alberta (44.5 weeks) and Nunavut (44.1 weeks) posted the highest average maximum duration, while Quebec and Ontario had the lowest averages at 30.3 weeks and 31.3 weeks respectively (see Table 18).

Table 18 - Average maximum and actual duration of Employment Insurance regular benefits by province or territory, gender, age and claimant category, Canada, 2014/2015 to 2015/2016
Average maximum duration (weeks) Actual average duration (weeks)
2014/2015 2015/2016 Change 2014/2015 2015/2016 Change
Province or territory
Newfoundland and Labrador 38.2 43.8 +5.6 26.2 26.1 -0.1
Prince Edward Island 33.2 34.1 +0.9 23.2 23.5 +0.3
Nova Scotia 34.4 33.5 -0.9 23.7 23.2 -0.6
New Brunswick 35.6 34.9 -0.7 24.0 23.3 -0.6
Quebec 30.7 30.3 -0.4 18.7 18.4 -0.3
Ontario 30.9 31.3 +0.4 18.5 18.9 +0.4
Manitoba 30.0 32.0 +2.0 17.8 18.8 +1.0
Saskatchewan 33.0 42.4 +9.4 19.1 20.9 +1.8
Alberta 29.7 44.5 +14.8 18.5 21.2 +2.7
British Columbia 29.7 33.5 +3.8 18.7 19.2 +0.5
Yukon 32.9 33.6 +0.7 22.1 19.3 -2.8
Northwest Territories 40.0 34.9 -5.1 25.1 24.2 -0.9
Nunavut 40.0 44.1 +4.1 30.1 27.5 -2.6
Gender
Men 32.0 34.9 +2.9 19.8 20.0 +0.3
Women 30.5 32.6 +2.1 19.2 19.7 +0.6
Age category
24 years and under 30.5 32.2 +1.7 17.6 18.6 +1.0
25 to 44 years 31.6 34.4 +2.8 18.7 19.2 +0.5
45 to 54 years 32.0 34.7 +2.7 20.0 20.3 +0.2
55 years and over 30.8 33.4 +2.6 21.5 21.6 +0.1
EI claimant category*
Long-tenured workers 34.5 40.9 +6.4 18.2 18.7 +0.5
Occasional claimants 30.9 31.9 +1.0 19.0 19.7 +0.7
Frequent claimants 30.1 30.7 +0.6 22.2 22.0 -0.2
Canada 31.4 34.0 +2.6 19.5 19.9 +0.4
  • Note: Data may not add up due to rounding. Includes all claims for which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • * See Annex 2.1 for definitions of claimant categories referenced in this table.
  • p Preliminary estimates for the figures on actual duration.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

A number of factors during the reporting period likely affected benefit duration. Higher unemployment rates in several provinces and territories in 2015/2016 led to increases in maximum and average durations of EI regular benefits, reflecting potentially weaker local labour markets. The Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No.1—assented to on June 22, 2016—increased the duration of benefits available to eligible claimants by at least five weeks in 15 EI economic regions, Footnote 36 ten of which are located in western provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia). Footnote 37 Conversely, improvements in data coverage allowed for the introduction of a new unemployment rate calculation methodology in 2014 that better represented labour market conditions in the territories Footnote 38 and contributed to the decreases in their average maximum duration of regular benefits. Footnote 39 Long- tenured workers (40.9 weeks in 2015/2016) are generally more likely to accumulate insurable hours of employment well above the minimum requirements for EI regular benefits. As such, they tend to benefit from longer entitlements relative to frequent claimants (30.7 weeks in 2015/2016) who averaged shorter employment spells.

Note: Extension of Employment Insurance regular benefits for workers in regions affected by the downturn in commodity prices

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No.1 provided eligible unemployed workers in the 15 EI economic regions hardest hit by the downturn in commodity prices (discussed in chapter I) with additional weeks of EI regular benefits.

This measure extended the duration of EI regular benefits by 5 weeks, up to a maximum of 50 weeks of benefits, for all eligible claimants residing in these 15 EI economic regions. An additional 20 weeks of EI regular benefits was made available to long-tenured workers in the same 15 EI economic regions, up to a maximum of 70 weeks of benefits, in order to provide long-tenured workers, who may have spent years working in one industry or for one employer, with the financial support they need while they search for work, possibly in an entirely different industry and/or acquire the skills necessary to change career. These benefits are available for one year, beginning in July 2016, and apply to anyone who started a claim for EI regular benefits on or after January 4, 2015, and is still unemployed.

As such, while not implemented during the reporting period, these extended benefits will affect the maximum and average durations of many claims established during this period. To that end, the figures presented in this section are considered preliminary estimates and will need to be revised accordingly.

With regards to the average actual duration of EI regular benefits in terms of weeks of benefits received, there is little variation across age groups and gender over time. By EI claimant category, however, changes were in line with those for maximum duration: long-tenured workers and occasional claimants posted increases, while frequent claimants posted a decline. Provincial and territorial trends, notably affected by the changes in their local labour market conditions showed greater variability. As such, Alberta (+2.7 weeks) and Saskatchewan (+1.8 weeks) recorded the largest increases in the average actual duration in 2015/2016, the second consecutive year that this was the case.

In 2015/2016, EI regular claims from the Mining, Oil and Gas Extraction sector had, on average, the greatest maximum duration at 43.9 weeks, followed by those from Management of Companies and Enterprises (38.5 weeks). The higher maximum duration levels in these industries are partly attributed to a large proportion of claimants qualifying as long-tenured workers. In addition, both industries also recorded increases in maximum duration (9.3 weeks and 4.5 weeks respectively) well above the national average increase of 2.6 weeks.

In terms of actual duration, preliminary data suggest that EI claims established by workers from the Accommodation and Food Services Sector (22.9 weeks) had the highest average duration in 2015/2016, not far beyond the cross-industry average of 19.9 weeks (see Annex 2.6.2). As in past years, the Educational Services industry (13.1 weeks) posted an actual average duration significantly lower than overall average due to its seasonal nature and the relatively short and well-defined “off-season” over the summer months.

Proportion of regular benefit weeks used

In 2014/2015, Footnote 40 the average proportion of regular benefit weeks—the average number of EI regular weeks of benefits received by claimants as a share of their maximum entitlement—increased for the fifth consecutive year to 63.7%, reaching its highest level in over a decade.

The proportion of regular benefits used in 2014/2015 varied across provinces (see Table 19) and was generally higher in Atlantic Canada (between 69.5% in Newfoundland and Labrador and 73.3% in Prince Edward Island) and lower in Alberta and Saskatchewan (58.7% and 57.8% respectively).

By gender, consistent with what has been observed in the past, women (63.3%) and men (64.0%) used a similar proportion of their regular benefit weeks in 2014/2015. However, this was the first time since 2008/2009 that men used a slightly greater proportion of their regular benefits relative to women.

By age group, claimants aged 55 years and older (70.8% in 2014/2015) tended to use more of their regular benefit weeks than younger claimants (61.7%). As seen in Chapter I, this is likely related to longer periods of unemployment on average for older claimants relative to younger claimants and also, to some extent, slightly lower maximum entitlement durations.

Table 19 - Proportion of Employment Insurance regular benefits weeks used by province or territory, Canada, 2010/2011 to 2014/2015
Proportion of Employment Insurance regular weeks used
2010/2011 2011/2012 2012/2013 2013/2014 2014/2015
Newfoundland and Labrador 67.1% 66.1% 68.1% 70.4% 69.5%
Prince Edward Island 67.2% 68.9% 70.3% 71.4% 73.3%
Nova Scotia 66.7% 66.9% 69.4% 70.4% 71.1%
New Brunswick 65.5% 65.3% 65.5% 67.3% 69.6%
Quebec 60.8% 60.6% 62.2% 63.0% 63.9%
Ontario 61.4% 62.0% 62.8% 62.4% 61.7%
Manitoba 59.5% 60.2% 60.7% 61.1% 61.0%
Saskatchewan 57.1% 57.8% 57.1% 57.9% 57.8%
Alberta 59.3% 59.9% 58.5% 58.1% 58.7%
British Columbia 64.7% 64.3% 64.4% 64.5% 64.8%
Yukon 51.6% 52.3% 58.3% 59.0% 68.8%
Northwest Territories 61.4% 60.9% 61.5% 62.6% 64.2%
Nunavut 64.8% 63.0% 68.1% 70.4% 73.0%
Canada 62.1% 62.2% 63.1% 63.5% 63.7%
  • Note: Includes all claims for which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

The percentage of regular entitlement used is also linked to EI claimant category, as frequent EI claimants use a greater proportion of their regular entitlement (76.4% in 2014/2015) relative to occasional (63.2%) or long-tenured workers (52.0%), which may partly reflect the shorter entitlements received by frequent claimants on average. While the proportion of regular benefit weeks used is either relatively stable or declines with higher unemployment rates (reflecting greater entitlement provided in those regions) for each claimant category, as frequent claimants make up a greater share of the EI regular benefit claimant population in regions with higher unemployment rates, the proportion of regular entitlement used in those regions was also more elevated (see Chart 25).

Chart 25 - Proportion of Employment Insurance frequent claims* and proportion of regular benefits weeks used by regional unemployment rate**, Canada, 2014/2015
Chart 25 - Proportion of Employment Insurance frequent claims* and proportion of regular benefits weeks used by regional unemployment rate**, Canada, 2014/2015
Show data table
Regional unemployment rate Share of frequent claimants (left scale) % of regular benefits used by all claimants (right scale)
6.0% or less 10.5% 62.2%
6.1% to 8.0% 16.7% 63.4%
8.1% to 10.0% 21.7% 63.0%
10.1% to 13.0% 35.3% 64.4%
13.1% or more 53.8% 68.4%
  • * See Annex 2.1 for definitions of EI frequent claimants referenced in this chart.
  • ** Unemployment rates used for the Employment Insurance program are a moving average of seasonally adjusted monthly rates of unemployment produced by Statistics Canada, as per section 17 of the Employment Insurance Regulations.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

2.5 Exhaustion of Employment Insurance regular benefits

Claimants are said to have exhausted their entitlement when the number of weeks of benefits received (actual duration) equals the full entitlement available over the course of the benefit period. In some cases, the incidence of exhaustion of regular benefit entitlement can inform analysis related to the adequacy of the temporary income support that is provided to those looking for suitable employment following a job separation. Since a claim must be completed to determine its status as exhausted or non-exhausted, the analysis in this section is based on regular claims completed in 2015/2016, regardless of the claim’s establishment date.

Entitlement exhaustion of Employment Insurance regular benefits

Of all regular claims completed Footnote 41 in 2015/2016, slightly less than one-third (31.3% or 428,800) closed with exhausted entitlement. As depicted in Chart 26, the volume of regular claims with exhausted entitlement declined significantly in 2015/2016 after remaining relatively stable at around 460,000 over the previous four years. This decline is mostly attributable to the extension of EI regular benefits in the 15 EI economic regions hardest hit by the downturn in commodity price, as discussed in Chapter I, which contained a retrospective element for claims established on or after January 4, 2015 that provided additional weeks of EI benefits to many EI regular claimants in these regions—particularly in Alberta—that extended their claim into 2016/2017 despite initially exhausting in 2015/2016.

Chart 26 - Employment Insurance regular benefits entitlement exhaustion rate and exhausted claims, Canada, 2009/2010 to 2015/2016
Chart 26 - Employment Insurance regular benefits entitlement exhaustion rate and exhausted claims, Canada, 2009/2010 to 2015/2016
Show data table
In thousands In percent
Year Entitlement exhausted claims (left scale) Entitlement exhaustion rate (right scale)
2009/2010 498.0 30.5%
2010/2011 421.1 26.8%
2011/2012 463.2 32.9%
2012/2013 457.8 32.6%
2013/2014 462.0 34.3%
2014/2015 461.2 34.7%
2015/2016 428.8 31.3%
  • Note: Includes claims for which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

While the national entitlement exhaustion rate declined by 3.3 percentage points from 2014/2015 to 2015/2016, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nunavut recorded much more significant declines. The Northwest Territories posted the highest exhaustion rates in 2015/2016, which could be related in part to changes to EI economic regions in October 2014 that included the introduction of the new unemployment rate calculation methodology for EI economic regions in the territories and may have reduced the maximum entitlement duration available to claimants in some EI economic regions within the territories. Footnote 42 Table 20 presents entitlement exhaustion rates by the location of the claim’s establishment and by various demographic groups, such as gender, age and claimant category.

By gender, while claims established by women have higher entitlement exhaustion rates than those initiated by men historically—likely due in part to fewer weeks of entitlement on average—the exhaustion rate among women declined much more in 2015/2016 relative to men. Across age groups, claim exhaustion rates are fairly comparable with the notable exception of claims established by those 55 years old and older, which tend to exhaust entitlement more often and may be reflective of the challenges older claimants face in securing new employment following a job loss. However, in 2015/2016, there was a small decrease in the share of individuals in this age group exhausting their benefits as compared to 2014/2015.

Note: Extension of EI regular benefits and exhaustion rates

As noted previously, Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No.1 provided eligible unemployed workers in the 15 EI economic regions hardest hit by the downturn in commodity prices with additional weeks of EI regular benefits. Claimants who started a claim for EI regular benefits on or after January 4, 2015 and were still unemployed were eligible to receive those additional weeks of EI benefits, even though they previously exhausted their entitlement or their benefit period.

As such, while not implemented during the reporting period, these extended benefits affect the 2015/2016 entitlement and benefit period exhaustion rates. For instance, a snapshot of administrative data prior to the implementation of this measure indicates the number of claims that were considered to have exhausted their entitlement in Alberta for the 2015/2016 fiscal year were much higher (about 47,600) than those based on the adjusted administrative data following the implementation of the act in July 2016 and the processing of previously exhausted claims (down to about 18,100).

Table 20 - Employment Insurance regular benefits entitlement exhaustion rates by province or territory, gender, age, claimant category and seasonality, Canada, 2014/2015 to 2015/2016
Entitlement exhaustion rate
2014/2015 2015/2016 Change (ppts)
Province or territory
Newfoundland and Labrador 37.7% 28.9%* -8.8
Prince Edward Island 40.1% 38.2% -1.9
Nova Scotia 38.3% 40.2% +1.9
New Brunswick 30.5% 32.9% +2.4
Quebec 33.8% 33.8% -0.1
Ontario 35.6% 33.6%* -2.1
Manitoba 33.3% 29.0%* -4.3
Saskatchewan 28.3% 18.1%* -10.2
Alberta 29.3% 16.3%* -13.0
British Columbia 37.4% 31.9%* -5.5
Yukon 35.1% 31.0%* -4.1
Northwest Territories 30.2% 48.8% +18.6
Nunavut 42.2% 31.2%* -11.0
Gender
Men 33.2% 30.5% -2.7
Women 36.9% 32.7% -4.2
Age category
24 years and under 32.1% 29.1% -3.0
25 to 44 years 32.1% 29.0% -3.1
45 to 54 years 33.7% 30.4% -3.3
55 years and over 42.0% 37.9% -4.1
EI claimant category**
Long-tenured workers 27.1% 25.3% -1.7
Occasional claimants 35.7% 31.5% -4.1
Frequent claimants 38.7% 36.8% -2.0
Seasonality**
Seasonal 26.8% 25.0% -1.8
Non-seasonal 38.3% 34.1% -4.2
Canada 34.7% 31.3% -3.3
  • Note: Data may not add up due to rounding. Includes all claims for which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • * Provinces and territories associated with regions provided with additional weeks of EI regular benefits under the Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No.1. As claimants who started a claim for EI regular benefits on or after January 4, 2015 and were still unemployed were eligible to receive those additional weeks of EI benefits, even though they previously exhausted their entitlement or their benefit period, these extended benefits reduced the 2015/2016 exhaustion rates in those provinces and territories. A snapshot of administrative data prior to the implementation of this measure indicates much higher entitlement exhaustion rates: 34.5% in Newfoundland and Labrador, 35.2% in Ontario, 31.7% in Manitoba, 30.2% in Saskatchewan, 37.1% in Alberta, 38.5% in British Columbia, 45.8% in Yukon and 57.1% in Nunavut. As such, while not implemented during the reporting period, these extended benefits will affect the entitlement and benefit period exhaustion rates.
  • ** See Annex 2.1 for definitions of claimant categories referenced in this table.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

Benefit period exhaustion vs entitlement exhaustion

In addition to entitlement exhaustion, claims may also end because their benefit period—the period during which a EI claimant may receive EI benefits, which is usually 52 weeks for a claim with EI regular benefits—closes before all potential regular benefit weeks of entitlement have been paid. These claims are known as the benefit period exhausted claims and represented 23.1% of all completed regular claims in 2015/2016.

The circumstances that result in benefit period exhaustion can generally be considered more positive when compared to entitlement exhaustion, as it is influenced by variables affecting the duration of an EI claim such as regular benefit entitlement (longer maximum duration), weeks worked while on claim (leading to deferred benefit weeks) and the use of special benefits (adding another type of entitlement to the claim).

For example, as shown in Table 21, benefit period exhaustees are more likely to work while on claim (71.8% in 2015/2016) relative to entitlement exhaustees (36.3% in 2015/2016). In 2015/2016, 72.2% of claims that exhausted their benefit period were able to requalify for a new claim within four weeks of the termination of their claim, as the claimant had accumulated sufficient hours of insurable employment during the previous claim to meet eligibility requirements. This compares to only 10.1% for entitlement exhausted claims, who also recorded fewer average weeks worked while on claim (11.9 weeks) than averaged by claims that exhausted their benefit period (15.8 weeks).

Claims completed in 2015/2016 used 19.1 weeks of regular benefits on average. While entitlement exhausted claims used 27.4 weeks of regular benefits, benefit period exhausted claims used 18.9 weeks and non-exhausted claims used an average of 13.7 weeks. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, receiving special benefits can affect the benefit period exhaustion rate, increasing the number of weeks of EI benefits available to a claimant. Of all benefit period exhausted claims, 15.8% received regular benefits combined with special benefits in 2015/2016, a greater share than for other types of completed regular claims.

Table 21 - Completed Employment Insurance regular claims by exhaustion status, Canada, 2015/2016
All completed claims Non-exhausted claims Entitlement exhausted claims Benefit period exhausted claims
Exhaustion rate Not applicable* Not applicable* 31.3% 23.1%
Adjusted exhaustion rate** Not applicable* Not applicable* 28.2% 6.4%
Requalification status for a new claim
Requalifiers (new claim) 19.5% 1.0% 10.1% 72.2%
Non-requalifiers (no new claim) 80.5% 99.0% 89.9% 27.8%
Proportion of claims involving at least one week worked while on claim 50.6% 49.8% 36.3% 71.8%
Average weeks worked while on claim 11.0 7.4 11.9 15.8
Average weeks of regular benefits paid 19.1 13.7 27.4 18.9
Mixed claims (collected special benefits) 10.8% 8.6% 10.5% 15.8%
Average entitlement used 62.2% 42.8% 100.0% 56.7%
  • Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding. Completed claims include those that are terminated and those that are dormant and remained inactive as of August of the following fiscal year. Includes all claimants to which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • * By definition, exhaustion rates are only applicable for exhaustee populations (entitlement and benefit period exhaustees).
  • ** The adjusted exhaustion rate is the exhaustion rate excluding claimants who re-qualified for a new claim following the termination of their claims.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

Entitlement exhaustion of Employment Insurance regular benefits: seasonal claimants and seasonal gappers

Historically, entitlement exhaustion rates are lower for seasonal claims Footnote 43 than for non-seasonal claims as many seasonal employees are only temporarily laid-off and are likely to find work in the same industry and potentially with the same employer during the next season. Footnote 44 When a layoff is outside of seasonal cyclicality, for reasons such as the deterioration of the local labour market conditions, it can result in longer periods on EI and a more difficult job search. Higher rates of benefit entitlement exhaustion among non-seasonal claims (34.1%) relative to seasonal regular claimants (25.0%) in 2015/2016 may be partly reflective of the different circumstances faced by these categories of claimants (see Table 18).

However, even though seasonal claimants are less likely to exhaust their benefits entitlement than non-seasonal ones, those that do, are likely to go through a period without any income (from either employment or EI benefits). These claimants, referred to as “seasonal gappers”, have a combined work-benefit period of fewer than 52 weeks over the year. This can occur because the claimant has not accumulated sufficient hours of insurable employment during their qualifying period for the entitlement to cover the entire duration of the unemployment spell and local labour markets make finding work more difficult while on claim or from the end of the claim to the start of the season.

Among individuals who completed their claims in 2015/2016, there were 12,490 seasonal gappers, representing slightly below 1.0% of all regular completed claims in 2015/2016 and 2.9% of all completed seasonal claims. When seasonal claimants from the educational services industry—who are less likely to exhaust because of a short and predictable summer off-season—are excluded, seasonal gappers made up 3.5% of completed seasonal claims in 2015/2016. While the distribution of seasonal gappers generally follows the one of EI seasonal claimants, EI claimants aged 55 and over usually account for a greater share of seasonal gappers (42.2%) relative to their proportion in total seasonal claimants (32.6%).

Completed claims from seasonal gappers averaged 18.9 weeks of work and 26.9 weeks on claim in 2015/2016 (including the waiting period) resulting in an average gap of 6.3 weeks. Over half (60.2%) of the claims from seasonal gappers were associated with a gap of less than 6 weeks, 24.3% with a gap of 6 to 11 weeks and 15.5% with a gap of 12 weeks or more. A 2016 evaluation examining Pilot Project 15 —which extended EI regular benefits in 21 EI economic regions with high unemployment rates during a period of economic recovery to reduce the number of seasonal workers facing an income gap— found that it reduced both the probability of becoming a seasonal gapper and the duration of the period without income for seasonal gapper. However, seasonal gappers represented a very small proportion (4.6%) of all claimants benefiting from the extended weeks of benefits.

The Atlantic provinces (28.3%) and British Columbia (11.4%) were overrepresented among seasonal gappers as they respectively accounted for 23.7% and 7.4% of all seasonal regular claims in 2015/2016. For the same period, Ontario and Alberta both registered lower shares of claims associated to seasonal gappers relative to their respective proportion of seasonal claims. There was also significant variation in the likelihood that a seasonal claimant would experience an income gap following the end of their claim (see Chart 27).

Chart 27 - Number of seasonal gappers and share among all completed seasonal Employment Insurance regular claims, by region, Canada, 2015/2016
Chart 27 - Number of seasonal gappers and share among all completed seasonal Employment Insurance regular claims, by region, Canada, 2015/2016
Show data table
In percent
Region Share of seasonal gappers (%) Claims
Canada 2.9% 12,490
Territories 1.3% 10
B.C. 4.2% 1,420
Alta. 0.9% 110
Sask. 0.9% 70
Man. 2.6% 260
Ont. 2.4% 2,530
Que. 2.8% 4,550
N.B. 2.8% 980
N.S. 5.1% 1,330
P.E.I. 4.9% 420
N.L. 2.6% 810
  • Note: Completed claims include those that are terminated and those that are dormant and remained inactive as of August of the following fiscal year.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

2.6 Working While on Claim provision

The Employment Insurance Act’s Working While on Claim (WWC) provision is intended to help claimants stay connected with the labour market by encouraging them to accept available work while receiving EI benefits and to earn additional income while on claim. Under the WWC provision, claimants may earn employment income up to a specified earnings threshold determined by the prevailing legislation or pilot project with either reduced or full Employment Insurance benefits. Above this threshold, a claimant’s weekly EI benefit is reduced dollar-for-dollar. Footnote 45 The WWC provision currently applies to regular, fishing, parental, compassionate care and parents of critically ill children benefits. Footnote 46

Note: Changes to Working While on Claim pilot projects

A new Working While on Claim (WWC) pilot project—namely Pilot Project 20—started on August 7, 2016 for a period of two years. This pilot helps EI claimants stay connected to the labour market and offers a choice of two options to better support their job prospects. Under the default rule, claimants can keep 50 cents of EI benefits for every dollar earned (up to a maximum of 90% of their weekly insurable earnings). Under the optional rule, claimants can choose to earn up to the greater of $75 or 40% of their EI weekly benefit rate and earnings beyond this threshold resulting in weekly EI benefits being reduced dollar-for-dollar. The “optional rule” does not apply to claimants receiving special benefits for self-employed persons, as only the “default rule” is available for applicable benefits.

This provision was not in force during the reporting period of the 2015/2016 Monitoring and Assessment Report. 

Under the effective WWC provision in 2015/2016—Pilot Project 18 (August 5, 2012 to August 1, 2015) and Pilot Project 19 (August 2, 2015 to August 6, 2016)—a claimant was able to keep 50 cents of EI benefits for every dollar earned while on claim, up to a maximum of 90% of the average weekly insurable earnings used to establish his or her weekly benefit rate, before benefits were reduced dollar-for-dollar. Footnote 47 Pilot Projects 18 and 19 also allowed claimants (from January 6, 2013) to elect to revert to the rules of Pilot Project 17 (no reduction in EI benefits up to the greater of 40% of their weekly benefits or $75 and dollar-for-dollar reductions thereafter) if they had worked while on claim between August 7, 2011 and August 4, 2012 (i.e. subject to the Pilot Project 17 provisions), representing a potential pool of 773,800 claimants. If a claimant reverted, Pilot Project 17 rules applied for the duration of the claim or up to the expiration of the pilot project (whichever was earlier), but was not permitted to revert in the future if he or she had elected not to revert. Of all claims established in 2015/2016, approximately 2,500 claims were subject to the Pilot Project 17 working while on claim provisions.

Example: Employment Insurance benefits under WWC pilots

Nancy is unemployed and receives $350 in EI regular benefits on a weekly basis (55% of her average weekly insurable earnings of $636). She finds a part-time temporary job paying $300 per week while she continues to look for suitable permanent employment.

Under the provisions of Pilot Project 17, she can earn the greater of $75 or 40% of her weekly benefit rate of $350 without any reduction in EI benefits. Under these provisions, her income would be $490 per week ($300 in employment earnings and $190 in EI benefits).

Under the provisions of Pilot Project 19, for each dollar in employment income, she continues to receive 50 cents EI regular benefits, up to 90% of her previous weekly earnings ($572). Under these provisions, her total weekly income would be $500 ($300 in employment earnings and $200 in EI benefits).

Number of Employment Insurance regular claimants Working While on Claim Footnote 48

About 802,600 claimants (or 42.5% of all EI regular claimants) with an active EI regular claim in 2015/2016 worked at least one week during a claim (see Table 22). Among all EI regular claimants who worked while on claim, almost four-fifths had some sort of consequential interaction with WWC provisions (partial benefits, mix of partial benefits and deferred weeks, etc.), while the remaining claimants only deferred their weeks of EI benefits when working while on claim (see Table 23).

Methodological note: Changes to the reported statistics on Working While on Claim

In previous EI Monitoring and Assessment Reports, the reported number of claims with work while on claim was based on claims established in a given fiscal year with at least one week worked while on claim over the claim’s life, regardless of the fiscal year in which they worked. As some claims established within the reporting period would have been open, these statistics lagged the report by one year.

In order to make Working While on Claim statistics consistent with the reporting period and to better align measured working while on claim activity with the labour market conditions observed during the associated fiscal year and the prevailing Working While on Claim provisions, this year’s report presents statistics on the number (or share) of claimants that worked at least one week while on claim during the fiscal year among all claimants with an active claim during that period, regardless of when these claims were established.

Table 22 - Regular Employment Insurance (EI) claimants working at least one week while on claim and by partial or full regular benefits paid during weeks Worked While on Claim by region, gender and age, Canada, 2014/2015 to 2015/2016
Worked at least one week while on claim At least one week Worked While on Claim and received EI Regular benefits paid
2014/2015 2015/2016 Change (%) 2014/2015 2015/2016 Change (%)
Region
Newfoundland and Labrador 41,750 42,900 +2.8% 26,400 26,670 +1.0%
Prince Edward Island 9,810 9,410 -4.1% 6,840 6,640 -2.9%
Nova Scotia 37,960 39,300 +3.5% 28,820 28,670 -0.5%
New Brunswick 48,280 48,160 -0.2% 32,290 32,010 -0.9%
Quebec 285,090 281,060 -1.4% 216,350 212,600 -1.7%
Ontario 202,840 201,250 -0.8% 170,000 169,560 -0.3%
Manitoba 18,080 18,750 +3.7% 16,000 16,390 +1.9%
Saskatchewan 15,220 17,620 +15.8% 12,830 14,790 +15.3%
Alberta 41,380 64,030 +54.7% 33,570 51,800 +54.3%
British Columbia 78,780 78,100 -0.9% 68,140 66,790 -2.0%
Territories 2,340 2,060 -12.0% 2,030 1,790 -11.8%
Gender
Men 472,100 484,980 +2.7% 341,200 346,990 +1.7%
Women 309,430 317,660 +2.7% 272,070 280,720 +3.2%
Age category
24 years and under 73,520 76,030 +3.4% 61,450 63,250 +2.9%
25 to 44 years 358,410 372,810 +4.0% 286,440 296,550 +3.5%
45 to 54 years 215,750 213,850 -0.9% 163,910 162,350 -1.0%
55 years and over 133,850 139,950 +4.6% 101,470 105,560 +4.0%
Canada 781,530 802,640 +2.7% 613,270 627,710 +2.4%
  • Note: Includes all claimants to which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

The proportion of regular claimants with at least one week worked while on claim varies across regions and industries, likely a reflection of the claimants’ local labour market conditions. Greater shares of EI regular claimants working while on claim correlates with regions—Atlantic provinces (51.7% in 2015/2016) and Quebec (51.0% in 2015/2016)—and with industries—Educational Services (60.7%) and Construction (48.1%)—that have a higher proportion of seasonal claimants, possibly due to the greater re-employment opportunities should the benefit period exceed the length of the “off-season”.

Women (45.1%) were more likely than men (41.0%) to work at least one week while receiving EI regular benefits in 2015/2016 and also to receive EI benefits during at least one of those weeks (88.4% of women who worked while on claim compared with 71.5% for men in 2015/2016). Conversely, workers from the Atlantic provinces were more likely than those residing in other regions to only defer weeks of EI regular benefits when working while on claim.

Table 23 - Share of regular Employment Insurance (EI) claimants working at least one week while on claim and by EI regular benefits received during weeks Worked While on Claim, Canada, 2011/2012 to 2015/2016
2011/2012 2012/2013 2013/2014 2014/2015 2015/2016
Share of EI regular claimants that worked at least one Week While on Claim 47.3% 46.5% 44.3% 43.2% 42.5%
Among EI regular claimants that Worked While on Claim, share who during weeks while on claim
Deferred at least one week of EI regular benefits 62.4% 61.1% 60.9% 60.6% 60.3%
Deferred all their weeks of EI regular benefits 24.2% 21.6% 21.4% 21.5% 21.8%
Received at least one week of EI regular benefits 75.8% 78.4% 78.6% 78.5% 78.2%
Received EI regular benefits for all their weeks 37.6% 38.9% 39.1% 39.4% 39.7%
  • Note: Prior to WWC Pilot Project 18, which became effective in August 2012, EI claimants working while on claim could receive full EI benefits while working while on claim as long as their earnings did not exceed 75$ or 40% of their weekly EI benefit rate. Since then, unless the claimant reverts to the Pilot Project 17 WWC provisions, he/she cannot receive the full weekly amount of EI benefits for weeks worked during a claim. Includes all claimants to which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

Weeks Worked While on Claim

This section analyzes the WWC provision from the perspective of weeks worked while on claim, focusing on EI regular claims, examining whether or not employment income was reported during a week in which a claimant was entitled to receive EI benefits in the fiscal year, regardless of when the claim was established.

For EI regular claims, the proportion of weeks worked while on claim declined for the fourth consecutive year, down to 22.9% in 2015/2016 from 24.2% in 2014/2015 and from a high of 27.4% in 2011/2012 (see Chart 28). Footnote 49 The average number of weeks worked while on claim has also been on a downward trend and reached 11.0 weeks for claims terminated in 2015/2016, down from 13.9 weeks in 2012/2013. Footnote 50

Chart 28 - Employment Insurance (EI) weeks worked while on claim by EI regular claimants, Canada, 2009/2010 to 2015/2016
Chart 28 - Employment Insurance (EI) weeks worked while on claim by EI regular claimants, Canada, 2009/2010 t o 2015/2016
Show data table
In percent
Year Share of weeks worked while on claim (left scale) Average number of weeks Worked while on claim (right scale)
2009/2010 24.8% 12.0
2010/2011 26.2% 13.2
2011/2012 27.4% 12.7
2012/2013 26.6% 13.9
2013/2014 25.0% 11.9
2014/2015 24.2% 11.5
2015/2016 22.9% 11.0
  • Note: Includes all claims for which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • * Coincides with the Employment Insurance (EI) temporary measures that increased the maximum number of weeks for which regular benefits could be paid.
  • Sources: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. ESDC data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

The declines in the proportion of and the average number of weeks worked while on claim are partly attributable to changes in the WWC pilot projects and labour market conditions, as well as a decrease in the share of seasonal claimants among EI regular claimants (see section 2.7 Employment Insurance regular benefits and seasonal claimants) and an increase in the proportion of EI claimants based in western provinces who have historically been less likely to work while on claim.

Seasonal claimants, women, claimants between 45 years old and 54 years old and those living in Atlantic Canada or Quebec all had above-average shares of EI regular claimants that worked while on claim and also of the proportion of weeks worked while on claim over the last five years. However, all provinces and demographic groups have trended down in the share of weeks worked while on claim (see Table 24).

Table 24 - Share of Employment Insurance regular weeks Worked While on Claim by region, gender, age and seasonality, Canada, 2011/2012 to 2015/2016
2011/2012 2012/2013 2013/2014 2014/2015 2015/2016
Pilot projects 12 and 17 Pilot projects 17 and 18 Pilot project 18 Pilot project 18 Pilot projects 18 and 19
Region
Newfoundland and Labrador 31.5% 30.7% 28.2% 27.0% 25.8%
Prince Edward Island 32.8% 30.3% 27.9% 25.9% 25.1%
Nova Scotia 31.7% 31.0% 29.4% 27.8% 26.7%
New Brunswick 35.6% 34.6% 33.3% 32.4% 31.2%
Quebec 34.5% 33.6% 32.2% 31.2% 31.2%
Ontario 20.4% 19.5% 18.0% 17.7% 17.1%
Manitoba 16.1% 14.5% 14.1% 12.7% 12.1%
Saskatchewan 16.0% 15.1% 13.5% 12.9% 12.6%
Alberta 16.6% 15.2% 13.8% 11.8% 10.7%
British Columbia 23.0% 22.2% 20.5% 19.9% 18.7%
Territories 14.4% 13.0% 11.1% 11.1% 12.5%
Gender
Men 26.1% 25.4% 23.7% 23.1% 21.5%
Women 29.5% 28.6% 27.0% 26.1% 25.6%
Age category
24 years and under 24.3% 24.1% 22.9% 22.7% 21.1%
25 to 44 years 27.7% 27.2% 25.6% 25.0% 23.7%
45 to 54 years 32.0% 32.1% 30.6% 29.5% 28.2%
55 years and over 22.6% 20.3% 18.4% 17.7% 16.9%
Seasonality
Seasonal* 35.3% 34.2% 32.9% 32.1% 31.1%
Non-seasonal 24.3% 23.3% 21.3% 20.5% 19.4%
Canada 27.4% 26.6% 25.0% 24.2% 22.9%
  • Note: Includes all claims for which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • * See Annex 2.1 for definitions of seasonal claims referenced in this table.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

Adjustments to WWC pilot projects over the years, combined with shifting economic conditions, have likely contributed to changing patterns in weeks worked while on claim. Under prior WWC provisions, EI benefits were not reduced below a certain threshold (25% of the claimant’s weekly benefits or $50 under the legislation and 40% of the claimant’s weekly benefits or $75 under Pilot Projects 12 and 17), but were reduced dollar-for-dollar thereafter and provided little incentive for EI claimants to work additional hours. Conversely, under the provisions of pilots in effect in 2015/2016—namely Pilot Projects 18 and 19—a claimant’s total income (from EI benefits and employment earnings) increases with hours worked, until it reaches 90% of their weekly insurable earnings, strengthening labour market attachment. As a result, the provisions of the most recent pilots in effect have likely smoothed the distribution of hours worked by EI claimants relative to the provision of previous pilot projects or the legislation, and increased work intensity (see Chart 29).

Chart 29 - Distribution of weeks Worked While on Claim*,** by pilot projects and legislation, Canada, 2004/2005 to 2015/2016
Chart 29 - Distribution of weeks Worked While on Claim*,** by pilot projects and legislation, Canada, 2004/2005 to 2015/2016
Show data table
Weekly earnings as a share of weekly EI regular benefits Legislation (April 2004 to November 2005) Pilot Projects 12 and 17 (December 2008 to July 2012) Pilot projects 18 and 19 (August 2012 to March 2016)
0%-10% 2.5% 3.0% 2.5%
11%-20% 6.0% 5.3% 3.9%
21%-30% 12.1% 8.4% 5.5%
31%-40% 7.3% 14.7% 6.7%
41%-50% 5.1% 6.5% 4.8%
51%-60% 4.0% 4.2% 4.3%
61%-70% 4.0% 3.8% 4.4%
71%-80% 4.0% 3.7% 4.4%
81%-90% 3.9% 3.6% 4.4%
91%-100% 4.0% 3.6% 4.6%
101%-110% 4.1% 3.7% 4.7%
111%-120% 4.0% 3.9% 5.0%
121%-130% 4.6% 4.1% 5.3%
131%-140% 4.9% 4.6% 6.0%
141%-150% 5.7% 5.2% 6.7%
151%-160% 6.6% 5.8% 7.6%
161%-170% 7.6% 7.0% 8.5%
171%-180% 9.4% 9.0% 10.5%
Estimated weekly days of work  
Between 1/2 a day and a day 25% allowable earnings threshold (legislation) 40% allowable earnings threshold (Pilots 12 and 17)
Between 1-2 days
Between 2-3 days
About 3 days or more No longer receiving benefits; deferred week (legislation) No longer receiving benefits; deferred week (Pilots 12 and 17) No longer receiving benefits; deferred week (Pilots 18 and 19)
  • * Data are based on the weeks worked while on claim during the specified period, regardless of when the claim was established.
  • ** Excludes weeks worked while on claim with missing data, claims with weekly earnings as a share of weekly EI regular benefits above 180% and claims that reverted to Pilot Project 17.
  • *** Days worked are estimated by calculating the proportion of their full-time wage worked and converting it to days. For example, if a claimant worked for 20% of his/her benefit rate, recalling that the benefit rate is 55% of the full-time wage, then the claimant is working 11% (20% x 55%) of his/her full-time wage, or approximately 1/2 day (11%x 5 days). This assumes that working claimants are earning approximately the same hourly wage as in their previous employment with which they qualified for benefits, that they had been working full time prior to establishing a claim and that they had earned the maximum insurable earnings or below.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

This increase in work intensity is also reflected in the average weekly income—weekly EI regular benefits and employment earnings—of EI regular claimants working while on claim, which grew faster than for EI regular claimants not working while on claim, reflecting the higher real average weekly employment earnings Footnote 51 of working while on claim EI regular claimants under the provisions of Pilot Projects 18 and 19 (see Table 25). Moreover, while the real average weekly EI regular benefits paid to EI claimants working while on claim have historically been lower than those paid to EI claimants not working while on claim, the additional income earned by claimants working while on claim appear to more than make up for this difference on average.

Table 25 - Average real* Employment Insurance (EI) regular claimants weekly earnings and EI regular benefits, Canada, 2011/2012 to 2015/2016
Pilot projects 12 and 17 Pilot projects 18 and 19
EI regular claimants who 2011/2012 2012/2013 2012/2013 2013/2014 2014/2015 2015/2016
Did not work while on claim
Average real EI regular weekly income (EI regular benefits only) $298 $298 $295 $310 $320 $327
Worked while on claim and did not defer weeks of EI benefits
Average real weekly income $335 $345 $359 $364 $371 $380
Average real EI regular weekly benefits $284 $277 $262 $277 $283 $291
Average real weekly employment earnings** $51 $68 $97 $87 $88 $89
Average real weekly employment earnings during weeks worked** $215 $276 $285 $298 $307 $319
  • Note: Based on claims that have received only partial or only full EI regular benefits during all the weeks worked while on claim and that were terminated or were dormant and remained inactive as of August the following fiscal year, no matter when they were established. For Pilot Projects 12 and 17 in 2012/2013, only claims that were terminated or dormant between April 2012 and July 2012 were considered. For Pilot Projects 18 and 19 in 2012/2013, only claims that were established between August 2012 and March 2013 and terminated or dormant in 2012/2013 were considered, with claims started prior to August 2012 (and likely associated to longer EI regular benefits duration) excluded and may result in slight over estimates of average real weekly employment earnings in 2012/2013.
  • * Earnings and EI benefits are adjusted in real 2002 dollars using the All Items Consumer Price Index.
  • ** The average real weekly employment earnings represent total employment earnings from work during a claim divided by the number of weeks the claimant received EI regular benefits. The average weekly earnings during weeks worked are total employment earnings divided by the number of weeks worked while on claim.
  • Sources: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data and Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 326-0020.

Note: Factors associated with Working While on Claim

A 2015 study* looking at claimants who only received EI regular benefits and worked while on claim in 2010 found that the longer the duration of a claim, the more likely the claimant was to work while on claim and to work for more than one employer. Specifically, for claims lasting 14 weeks or less, 48% worked while on claim and 14% worked for more than one employer. Those claims lasting 45 weeks or more had 67% of claimants working while on claim, with 30% working for more than one employer. The number of weeks worked as well as the number of “full-time” weeks (defined as a claimant having their benefits reduced to zero and therefore deferring the week) also increased with the duration of the claim and 74% of these claimants who only received EI regular benefits and worked while on claim did so for a single employer. The average working claimant worked approximately over a period of 12.5 weeks.

According to this study, 79% of working claimants had worked for the same employer previous to their claim, while 82% stayed with the same employer they worked for on claim after their claim had ended. In total, 95% of working claimants worked at least one week for the same employer before or after their claim. A subset of these claimants worked both before and after the claim, which made up 65% of working claimants. While not put forward by the study itself, these statistics could suggest that many claimants are being laid-off during a temporary work-shortage, with the possibility of returning intermittently during their EI claim as required, and returning full-time when the work-shortage subsides. This could explain the high correlation of seasonal industries and claims which produce and follow work-shortage trends with working while on claim.

  • * ESDC, Who Are Workers Working for When Working While on Claim? (Ottawa: ESDC, Evaluation Directorate, 2016).

2.7 Employment Insurance regular benefits and seasonal claimants

EI seasonal claimants are claimants who, in the previous five years, established at least three regular or fishing claims, with at least two having started during the same period of the year as the current claim. Footnote 52 They are not mutually exclusive with the other claimant categories of frequent, occasional or long-tenured worker (see Annex 2.1 for precise definitions of the claimant categories).

As in four of the last five years, the total number of seasonal claims increased in 2015/2016, up by 1.4% to reach 452,400. Among them, some 425,700 (see Chart 30) were EI regular claims and the rest were claims for EI fishing benefits. Footnote 53 The analysis in the following subsections will focus on seasonal regular claims. More information on fishing claims can be found in section 4.

The 425,700 seasonal regular claims in 2015/2016 represented 29.7% of all regular claims established (see Table 26). Although this share declined for a second consecutive year—down from 31.9% in 2013/2014—it remained above its ten-year average of 29.2% (see Chart 30). This decline is attributable to a greater increase in non-seasonal regular claims associated with the downturn in commodity prices, discussed in Chapter 1, as non-seasonal regular claims are generally more responsive to business cycle fluctuations than seasonal regular claims.

While a greater proportion of youth (under 25 years old) work in seasonal jobs relative to other age groups, claimants 45 years old and over represent the largest share of the seasonal claimants. The difference in the age distribution between seasonal employment and EI regular claims partly reflects the higher eligibility rates of unemployed aged 45 years old and over, especially in seasonal jobs, relative to those of individuals aged 15 to 24 years old (particularly as returning to school is an invalid reason for separation — see section 2.2 Coverage, eligibility and access).

Chart 30 - Employment Insurance seasonal* regular claims, Canada, 2001/2002 to 2015/2016
Chart 30 - Employment Insurance seasonal* regular claims, Canada, 2001/2002 to 2015/2016
Show data table
In percent In thousands
Year Seasonal claims as a share of regular claims (left scale) New seasonal regular claims established (right scale)
2001/2002 26.7% 394.71
2002/2003 27.9% 397.92
2003/2004 27.5% 410.43
2004/2005 29.1% 406.00
2005/2006 30.4% 410.03
2006/2007 30.8% 408.49
2007/2008 30.5% 395.16
2008/2009 25.1% 412.66
2009/2010 25.8% 417.43
2010/2011 27.3% 381.81
2011/2012 29.0% 412.23
2012/2013 31.0% 419.93
2013/2014 31.9% 422.41
2014/2015 31.3% 419.72
2015/2016 29.7% 425.69
  • Note: Includes claims for which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • * See Annex 2.1 for definitions of seasonal claims referenced in this chart.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) Administrative Data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.
Table 26 - Employment Insurance (EI) regular claims and EI seasonal regular claims* by region, gender, age and industry, Canada, 2015/2016
Regular claims (number) Seasonal regular claims (number) Seasonal regular claims as a % of regular claims
Region
Newfoundland and Labrador 67,880 32,470 47.8%
Prince Edward Island 16,790 8,590 51.2%
Nova Scotia 62,020 24,970 40.3%
New Brunswick 72,030 34,910 48.5%
Quebec 422,200 159,380 37.7%
Ontario 390,830 98,420 25.2%
Manitoba 41,810 11,090 26.5%
Saskatchewan 39,580 8,240 20.8%
Alberta 167,800 15,280 9.1%
British Columbia 146,080 31,500 21.6%
Territories 4,070 840 20.6%
Gender
Men 896,610 266,130 29.7%
Women 534,480 159,560 29.9%
Age category
24 years and under 140,640 10,470 7.4%
25 to 44 years 639,540 156,900 24.5%
45 to 54 years 329,800 119,340 36.2%
55 years and over 321,110 138,980 43.3%
Industry
Goods-producing industries 565,610 187,510 33.2%
Services-producing industries 821,740 229,480 27.9%
Unclassified industry 43,740 8,700 19.9%
Canada 1,431,090 425,690 29.7%

The likelihood of an EI regular claim being established by a seasonal claimant was highest among the Atlantic provinces and Quebec and those based on employment in the goods sector (see Table 26). Within Atlantic Canada, 46.2% of all regular claims were seasonal in 2015/2016, compared to 26.8% for the rest of Canada. The high frequency of seasonal claims in the Atlantic provinces may be attributed to the composition of its goods- producing industries, which leads to a much higher proportion of seasonal employment in this sector (16.2% in 2015/2016) relative to the rest of the country (4.0% in 2015/2016). In contrast, Alberta had the lowest frequency of seasonal claims, as only 9.1% of its regular claims were seasonal. The Atlantic provinces and Quebec respectively accounted for 23.7% and 37.4% of all seasonal regular claims in 2015/2016 compared to, respectively, 11.7% and 26.1% of all non-seasonal regular claims (see Chart 31).

Chart 31 - Distribution of Employment Insurance regular seasonal and non-seasonal claims* by region, Canada, 2015/2016
Chart 31 - Distribution of Employment Insurance regular seasonal and non-seasonal claims* by region, Canada, 2015/2016
Show data table
In percent
Region Share of seasonal claims Share of non-seasonal claims
Atlantic 23.7% 11.7%
Quebec 37.4% 26.1%
Ontario 23.1% 29.1%
Western provinces 15.5% 32.7%
Territories 0.2% 0.3%
  • Note: Includes all claims for which at least $1 of regular benefits was paid.
  • * See Annex 2.1 for definitions of seasonal claims referenced in this chart.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) Administrative Data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

Note: Seasonal workers

Statistics’ Canada Labour Force Survey (LFS) defines seasonal workers as those whose employment is in an industry where employment levels rise and fall with the seasons. This does not necessary align with the EI claimant category, which is agnostic about a claimant’s industry of employment and is based on the claimant’s recent history of EI regular or fishing benefit use.

According to the LFS, there were 434,400 seasonal workers in 2015/2016,* a 2.7% increase from 2014/2015. Seasonal workers represented 2.9% of all employees and 21.5% of all temporary workers in 2015/2016, slightly below the average shares recorded over the last ten years. Over the last decade, the proportion of seasonal workers has ranged between 2.8% and 3.1% of all employees and between 20.9% and 23.6% of all temporary workers in Canada.

A recent report on seasonal employment** found that men, those who are single and those between 15 to 24 years old are more likely to work in seasonal jobs. The higher proportion of those 15 to 24 years old in seasonal jobs is mostly attributable to student summer employment patterns. Seasonal employment has become more important in terms of its share of total employment for workers 15 to 24 years old and also 55 and over.

  • * Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, CANSIM Table 282-0079.
  • ** ESDC, A profile of Seasonal workers in 2015: A complement to a Profile of Temporary workers (Ottawa: ESDC, Economic Policy Directorate, 2016).

About half (47.1% in 2015/2016) of seasonal regular claims were established in the third quarter of the fiscal year (October to December), as production slows down in many seasonal industries during that quarter (see Table 27). There are, however, variations across industries and gender. For instance, while seasonal claims by workers from goods-producing industries and by men are generally concentrated in the third quarter of the fiscal year, seasonal claims established by women and by workers in services-producing industries are more concentrated in the second quarter (July to September) of the fiscal year (53.0% and 41.5% respectively). This is likely related to the summer “off-season” for educational services, reflecting the closure of elementary schools and high schools during that period of the year.

Table 27 - Employment Insurance seasonal regular claims* by region, gender and industry sector, Canada, 2015/2016
Total seasonal regular claims Distribution of seasonal regular claims by quarter (%)
Q1 (April to June) Q2 (July to September) Q3 (October to December) Q4 (January to March)
Region
Atlantic provinces 100,940 13.8% 22.7% 47.4% 16.1%
Quebec 159,380 11.1% 23.4% 54.0% 11.4%
Ontario 98,420 8.7% 36.7% 41.7% 12.9%
Western provinces 66,110 11.2% 39.7% 37.6% 11.5%
Territories 840 13.1% 15.5% 54.8% 16.7%
Gender
Men 266,130 9.3% 14.4% 59.7% 16.6%
Women 159,560 14.3% 53.0% 25.9% 6.8%
Industry sector
Goods-producing industries 187,510 7.2% 14.1% 62.0% 16.7%
Services-producing industries 229,480 14.6% 41.5% 34.4% 9.5%
Unclassified industry 8,700 8.5% 12.9% 57.6% 21.0%
Canada 425,690 11.2% 28.8% 47.1% 12.9%
  • * See Annex 2.1 for definitions of seasonal claims referenced in this table.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

Eligibility for Employment Insurance regular benefits among seasonal claimants

The Employment Insurance Coverage Survey (EICS) of Statistics Canada shows that eligibility for regular benefits among seasonal workers is higher than that for temporary non-seasonal workers, Footnote 54 but lower than that for permanent full-time workers. In 2015, 82.6% of unemployed seasonal workers who had been paying premiums and had a valid job separation (were laid off or quit with just cause) were eligible for regular benefits compared to only 64.0% for other temporary, non-seasonal workers.

Duration of Employment Insurance regular benefits among seasonal claimants

In 2015/2016, the average maximum duration of entitlement available to seasonal regular claimants was 31.2 weeks of regular benefits, an increase of almost a week (+0.9 weeks) over the previous year. This is the first increase since 2009/2010, when the average duration was 39.0 weeks and was elevated by the additional weeks provided by the temporary measures introduced in Budget 2009/2010.

The average actual duration of EI regular benefits for seasonal claimants was 18.1 weeks in 2015/2016 Footnote 55 and has remained relatively unchanged since 2012/2013. The average actual duration of regular benefits and the maximum entitlement among seasonal regular claimants are generally shorter than those for non-seasonal regular claimants, reflecting the fact that seasonal claimants generally accumulate fewer hours of insurable employment than non-seasonal claimants prior to establishing a claim.

Overlapping definitions of seasonal and frequent claimants: internal analysis

While not synonymous, there is significant overlap between frequent claimants—defined as claimants who have had three or more claims for EI regular or fishing benefits and received over 60 weeks of benefits in the past five years—and seasonal claimants.

Both seasonal and frequent claimants must have established three or more claims each in the past five years, but they differ on two criteria: 1) frequent claimants are defined on the number of weeks of EI regular or fishing received, while seasonal claimants are not; and 2) the timing of the claim establishment determines a claimant’s status as seasonal, while this criterion does not apply for frequent claimants.

Analysis of frequent regular claimants and seasonal regular claimants indicate that a greater number of EI regular claimants qualify as seasonal claimants relative to frequent claimants (see Table 28). This suggests many seasonal regular claimants use less than the 60 weeks of regular benefits over a five-year period. At the same time, a large proportion of frequent claimants can be considered as seasonal claimants, such that claims by non-frequent seasonal claimants outnumber claims by frequent non-seasonal claimants (see Chart 32).

Table 28 - Frequent and seasonal Employment Insurance regular claims*, Canada, 2009/2010 to 2015/2016
  2009/2010 2010/2011 2011/2012 2012/2013 2013/2014 2014/2015 2015/2016
Frequent 300,370 309,230 321,040 319,580 309,780 304,700 307,790
Seasonal 417,430 381,810 412,230 419,930 422,410 419,720 425,690
  • * See Annex 2.1 for definitions of seasonal claims referenced in this table.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.
Chart 32 - Distribution of Employment Insurance regular seasonal and frequent claims*, Canada, 2015/2016
Chart 32 - Distribution of Employment Insurance regular seasonal and frequent claims*, Canada, 2015/2016
Show data table
Frequent, non-seasonal Frequent and seasonal Non-frequent, seasonal
Level of claims 49,200 258,600 167,100
Share of total frequent and seasonal claims 10.4% 54.5% 35.2%
  • * See Annex 2.1 for definitions of frequent and seasonal claims referenced in this chart.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) Administrative Data, Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.
Table 29 - Completed Employment Insurance frequent and seasonal regular claims*, Canada, 2015/2016
Average duration of EI regular benefits (in weeks) Proportion of regular benefits paid Exhaustion rate
Frequent non-seasonal claims 22.3 75.7% 42.7%
Frequent and seasonal claims 21.7 75.2% 35.6%
Non-frequent seasonal claims 11.6 40.2% 8.8%
  • Note: Completed claims include those that are terminated and those that are dormant and remained inactive as of August the following fiscal year.
  • * See Annex 2.1 for definitions of frequent and seasonal claims referenced in this table.
  • Source: ESDC, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

Analysis by industry shows that a large share of the difference between seasonal and frequent regular claims is due to claims from the Educational Services industry. While 19.1% of seasonal claims were from this industry, it represented just 6.3% of frequent claims. Moreover, because of the predictable cyclicality of the Educational Services industry, seasonal claims accounted for 52.2% of all claims from this industry and represented 38.5% of all non-frequent seasonal claimants. The relatively short duration of the summer “off-season” means many of these seasonal claims do not accumulate sufficient weeks of benefits to also be classified as frequent claims.

Comparing the two non-overlapping populations, non-seasonal frequent claimants tend to claim more weeks of EI regular benefits, use a much greater proportion of their regular weeks of benefits and are much more likely to exhaust their EI regular entitlement relative to non-frequent seasonal claimants (see Table 29).

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