EI claims are rising fast in oil-producing provinces

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Employment insurance benefits being received by out-of-work Canadians is rising fast in formerly booming provinces whose economies have been sideswiped by the collapse in oil prices.

Fresh data from Statistics Canada released Thursday show EI recipients up sharply in Saskatchewan in December, the latest data available, while claims in Alberta doubled year over year, to 62,480 (see chart below).

Beyond oil patch

The number of EI recipients in Saskatchewan totalled 15,200 in the month, up 37.5 per cent from a year earlier, when oil prices were just beginning their long descent to current levels.

New recipients in the province were concentrated in ex-trades workers, transportation and equipment operators, positions with likely ties to the oil-and-gas sector, a field Premier Brad Wall is seeking federal aid to to help revive employment.

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MORE: There’s hope yet for at least some laid off oil workers

In Alberta, a much bigger province, the rising claims were more broad based. “Alberta had more beneficiaries in nearly all major occupation groups in December,” Statscan said.

The largest increase, however, was reported among management occupations (up 6.8 per cent) – indicating that employment pressures are being felt far beyond workers in the oil patch.

Declining elsewhere

The number of EI recipients in other provinces meanwhile is either holding steady or actually declining.

In British Columbia, EI rolls fell by more than 1,000 between October and the end of the year. Numbers also edged lower in Ontario and Quebec, which saw declines of 1.1 per cent and 1.7 per cent in December, respectively.

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With their more diversified economies, the three provinces are all expected to post better economic growth and employment prospects this year, benefiting from a lower Canadian dollar that should boost fields ranging from manufacturing  to tourism .

MORE: Job seekers are flocking to Ontario, B.C. for work 

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