Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment Report for the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2017 and ending March 31, 2018

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

The Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment Report presents the analysis of the impact and effectiveness of the benefits and other assistance provided under the Employment Insurance Act during the fiscal year starting on April 1, 2017 and finishing on March 31, 2018 (referred to as the reporting period or FY1718). The highlights below relate to this period or reflect changes between FY1617 and FY1718.

Canada’s economy and labour market experienced strong growth in FY1718 and the national unemployment rate reached a relatively low level.

  • Real gross domestic product grew by 3.0% in FY1718, the highest among the G7 countries.
  • Canadian employment increased by 1.8% in FY1718—surpassing the increase recorded in the previous fiscal year (+1.0%)—essentially driven by British Columbia (+3.2%), Quebec (+2.1%) and Ontario (+1.9%).
  • While the national unemployment rate dropped by 0.8 percentage points to 6.1% in FY1718—just above the lowest annual rate of 6.0% recorded in FY0708 prior to the recession—unemployment rates in resources-based provinces, such as Alberta and Saskatchewan, remained somewhat high.
  • In 2018, due to labour market and program changes, the EI premium rate for employees was set at $1.66 per $100 of insurable earnings, an increase of three cents from the 2017 rate of $1.63 per $100 of insurable earnings. Employers contribute EI premiums at 1.4 times the rate of employees.

Both the number of new EI regular claims established and the amount of EI regular benefits paid decreased slightly over the previous year.

  • The number of new EI regular claims established decreased by 1.6% from 1.32 million in FY1617 to 1.30 million in FY1718. This decline was largely attributable to the drop in new claims established in Alberta (-20.4%) due to the slight recovery in employment observed in that province.
  • The total amount paid in EI regular benefits decreased by 0.2% over the previous year to $12.6 billion in FY1718.

The eligibility rate for EI regular benefits decreased slightly in 2017 from the previous year.

  • Among unemployed individuals who had contributed EI premiums in the past 52 weeks and had a valid job separation, 84.3% were eligible to receive EI regular benefits in 2017, down 1.1 percentage points from 85.4% in 2016.
  • The eligibility rate for men decreased from 87.2% in 2016 to 85.8% in 2017, while for women it increased from 81.6% in 2016 to 82.1% in 2017.

The number of new claims and total amount paid increased across all types of EI special benefits, with the family caregiver benefit for children reporting the largest year-over-year percentage growth.

  • The number of new claims established for EI special benefits increased to 597,090 (+6.0%) in FY1718, and the total amount paid in EI special benefits rose to $5.7 billion (+4.5%) in FY1718.
  • Family caregiver benefits for children (+15.7%) experienced the largest percentage increase in new claims established over FY1617, followed by sickness benefits (+8.8%) and compassionate care benefits (+8.0%).
  • Starting on December 3, 2017, parents could choose between receiving standard or extended parental benefits. From that date to March 31, 2018, 8,700 extended parental claims were established.

Starting on January 1, 2017, the waiting period was reduced from 2 weeks to 1 week.

  • It is estimated that among completed claims who served a waiting period, 65.8% of regular claims, 71.1% of special benefit claims and 61.6% of fishing claims benefitted from the measure by receiving an extra week of benefits.

Economic growth and labour market expansion contributed to an overall decline in the number of clients served and interventions delivered under EI Part II.

  • A total of 715,658 clients (-4.8%) participated in approximately 1,108,000 interventions (-6.0%) across Canada.
  • The number of former EI claimants served increased by 21.3%, while active EI claimants and non-insured clients declined by 10.6% and 6.3%, respectively.
    • The increase in the number of former claimants may be attributable to the provisions, introduced in the Employment Insurance Act in July 2016, that expanded the definition of former claimants from those who completed an EI claim in the previous three years, to five years.
  • Client counts declined across all age groups: youth (-1.2%); core-ages 25-54 years old (-6.1%) and clients aged 55 or older (-0.2%).
  • Both Employment Benefit (-3.6%) and Support Measure (-7.0%) interventions declined year over year.
  • With the decline in the number of EI clients served, returns to work following an intervention dropped by 5.3%, and unpaid EI Part I benefits resulting from returns to employment slid by 18.0% year-over-year.
  • Overall expenditures edged down by 0.6% to a total of $2.17 billion.
  • Provinces and territories tend to be in line with international trends of service delivery methods for employment programs and services. Close to two-thirds of provinces and territories deliver programs through a mix of government services and outsourcing to contract providers. This allows governments to maintain accountability, oversight and monitoring, while labour market programs benefit from competition, efficiencies and innovations from the private sector.

In FY1718, Service Canada focused on improving services to meet the needs of Employment Insurance clients better.

  • Call centers access was improved for clients due to Budget 2016 investments (e.g. wait times were cut in half, from 13.6 minutes in FY1516 to 6.2 minutes this year; agent accessibility doubled from 30.6% in FY1516 to 61.4% this year);
  • EI clients had an enhanced online experience (e.g. clients were provided with more self-serve options; clients were involved through user testing to improve the online experience);
  • The Service Quality Review’s recommendations were addressed (e.g. the EI service standards review was conducted; the move of call centres’ technology to the Hosted Contact Centre Solution was advanced);
  • EI clients were surveyed to get their perspective on how services can be improved (e.g. the Client Experience survey of FY1718 was conducted);
  • Service delivery was transformed by implementing short-term, medium-term, and long-term solutions (e.g. clients were allowed to save their applications and to return to it at a later date; clients received emails notifications to advise them about information in their “My Service Canada account”);
  • There was a commitment to develop an action plan to strengthen the EI recourse system (e.g. concrete actions were proposed to reduce the appeals processing time for EI clients); and
  • Money was invested in the EI program to sustain its integrity (e.g. $21 million was invested in the EI program to prevent and detect fraudulent activities).
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