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Alberta EI recipients surged to almost 97,000 in November

Calgary skyline behind the Bow River. Jan. 2016. Loren Andreae / Global News

There are two kinds of graphs that illustrate better than any the state of Alberta’s economy right now.

One is the price of oil and how it’s trended since 2014, as shown in this NASDAQ chart below.

The price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil, and how it’s trended since 2014.
The price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil, and how it’s trended since 2014. NASDAQ

The other shows how many people in the province are relying on Employment Insurance (EI).

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Almost 97,000 Albertans were receiving regular income benefits through EI in November 2016, said a Wednesday release from Statistics Canada.

READ MORE: Expanding economy but ‘very modest growth’ for Edmonton in 2017: chief economist

That was up 3.4 per cent from the previous month and 57.4 per cent year-over-year.

It wasn’t the highest it’s been since the price of oil started dropping in 2014.

But as the graph below shows, it was close.

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Most of the increases in November happened in major metropolitan areas like Calgary, where they went up by 5.1 per cent month-over-month, and Edmonton, where they increased 4.9 per cent over the same time period.

The province has some way to go before it hits record levels. The highest number of people receiving income benefits through EI since 2014 was in July, when there were 102,950 recipients, with 32,780 in Calgary and 33,010 in Edmonton.

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Alberta wasn’t the only province that saw more people receiving EI benefits in November.

Newfoundland and Labrador had 38,320 recipients that month, compared to 33,480 a year earlier. Saskatchewan, meanwhile, had 21,390 receiving benefits, compared to 15,540 in November 2015.

The number of workers on EI in oil-producing provinces has grown by around 120 per cent since December 2014, University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe said on Twitter.

But it wasn’t all bad news for Alberta.

A Monetary Policy Report released by the Bank of Canada Wednesday showed that the energy sector can expect a “modest increase” in investment starting early this year.

The bank noted that economic activity in the resource sector is showing signs of “bottoming out,” “with businesses tied to oil now expecting some sales growth following a period of decline.”

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This chart shows that activity in industries most affected by low commodity prices is “showing signs of bottoming out.”
This chart shows that activity in industries most affected by low commodity prices is “showing signs of bottoming out.”. Bank of Canada

But that’s not the only good news that could greet Alberta’s economy in 2017.

TD expects that the provincial economy will grow by 2.1 per cent this year, tying with Ontario for the strongest economic growth of all provinces.

It’s expected to lead Canada with economic growth of 2.3 per cent in 2018.

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