This morning, Statistics Canada released Employment Insurance (EI) figures for February. These figures show slightly more recipients nationally, but somewhat fewer recipients among provinces. Statistics Canada confirms that this apparent discrepancy reflects the fact that each province is seasonally adjusted separately from the national total.
When seasonal adjustment is tipping the balance between an increase and a decrease, one must conclude that the numbers were â€œvirtually unchanged from the previous month.â€ That is not surprising since neither total employment nor unemployment changedÂ dramatically in February.
But no news is not necessarily good news. The status quo is that more than 1.5 million Canadians are officially unemployed, but that fewer than 700,000 receive EI benefits. Continuing that state of affairs is a poor outcome.
In addition to releasing figures on the number of EI recipients, Statistics Canada also updated its figures on the dollar value of benefits. In 2009, the average regular benefit was $348.42 per week. That corresponds to an annual income of $18,118.
Therefore, the average EI benefit falls below the Low Income Cut-Off for an individual living in a city with 30,000 or more people. It falls below the Cut-Off for a couple or family living in either rural or urban Canada.
EI benefits are currently only 55% of insurable earnings, up to a maximum of $457 per week. The labour movement has long proposed increasing benefits to a larger percentage of insurable earnings.
UPDATE (April 23): Quoted in The Hamilton Spectator