91% spike in Alberta EI claims since 2015; economist warns of defaults

Click to play video: 'EI claims jump over 90% in Calgary since 2015' EI claims jump over 90% in Calgary since 2015
WATCH ABOVE: Statistics Canada has released the numbers on how many Albertans are collecting E.I. and the jump in Calgary numbers is staggering. Gary Bobrovitz reports – Mar 24, 2016

Statistics Canada’s January data showed a 91 per cent increase in people claiming employment insurance (EI) benefits in the province of Alberta since a year before.

When compared to the previous month, the number of Canadians receiving regular EI benefits was virtually unchanged, but Alberta was among seven provinces that saw a rise in the number of EI beneficiaries in that time.

Alberta EI benefits increased by two per cent over the past month–the fourth highest after New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Saskatchewan.

READ MORE: Trudeau won’t say why Edmonton was left out of EI extensions in federal budget 2016

That translated to 63,800 Albertans receiving EI benefits in January, with a 2.4 per cent increase in Edmonton and a 1.7 per cent increase in Calgary since December.

In Tuesday’s federal budget, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the hardest hit labour forces in Canada will see laid-off workers qualify for additional EI benefits. Three of Alberta’s four EI regions will benefit from the policy, but not the Edmonton region.

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Watch below: Global’s coverage of how the EI changes affect Alberta

John Rose, the City of Edmonton’s chief economist, told Global News he has asked the federal government about when the eligibility will be reviewed as there is no doubt Edmonton will eventually qualify if it doesn’t already.

“‘The real question is are they going to review who’s in, who’s out and when will they do that and what time periods will they be looking at when they do that?” he said. “Unfortunately, up until now, I haven’t gotten any clarification on any of those issues.”

READ MORE: 4,000 construction workers in Edmonton’s core ‘light in a sea of gloom’ for economy

Rose added that Edmonton’s ineligibility for additional benefits won’t be noticed right away but will have a significant impact down the road.

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“The real issue is going to be six, seven, eight months down the road, when current EI recipients start to exhaust their benefits and their income may effectively drop to zero and what we’ll see is a spike in the Edmonton region in terms of defaults; people defaulting on their mortgages, on their car payments and a real sharp pullback in consumer spending as individuals realize that there is no cash flow and that they’re going to have to live on savings or some other source of funding,” Rose said.

READ MORE: Federal Budget 2016 – Big changes coming to employment insurance

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