Ottawa, ON—The number of Canadians receiving regular employment insurance (EI) benefits dropped by 38,000 (down 2.4 per cent) to 1.5 million in July. Of all the provinces, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick accounted for most of the decrease, reports Statistics Canada.
New eligibility requirements
To increase EI eligibility, temporary changes to the program were introduced last year. Additional changes were made in September, which includes a reduction in the number of required insured hours. In the past, EI applicants needed to work a minimum number of 600 hours. Over the last year, all new EI applicants received a one-time top-up of their hours if they didn’t meet the required 600 hours. This disappeared on Sept. 26. Now, the minimum required number of hours is set to 420 until Sept. 24, 2022.
The government is also requiring a new medical certificate proving an applicant is sick and can’t work to receive EI sickness benefits. The requirement was waived temporarily over the last year because of COVID-19.
In addition, the weekly floor on benefits will decline to $300 from $500, in line with the value of payments under the Canada Recovery Benefit that is available for those who don’t qualify for EI. The weekly floor is planned to apply to claims made between Sept. 26 and Nov. 20.
The duration and value of benefits will once again be calculated using regional unemployment rates that were temporarily replaced over the last year by a uniform unemployment rate of 13.1 per cent.
Anyone with an existing EI claim won’t see any changes to the value or duration of their benefits with these new rules. As well, seasonal workers in 13 regions will still be eligible for five extra weeks of EI regular benefits until October 2022.
EI beneficiaries qualification down
In July 2021, the proportion of regular EI recipients qualifying for EI under these new eligibility rules fell in most provinces, led by Prince Edward Island (-2.3 percentage points) and New Brunswick (-1.7 percentage points) (not seasonally adjusted), per Statistics Canada.
Statistics Canada also reported that Newfoundland and Labrador (22.8 per cent) and Quebec (20.1 per cent) had the highest share of regular EI beneficiaries qualifying for EI under the new rules, while Alberta (13.0 per cent) had the lowest (not seasonally adjusted).
Statistics Canada also highlights that the number of regular EI beneficiaries fell in five provinces, led by British Columbia and New Brunswick.