Today, Statistics Canada reported a large monthly drop of 10,900 for July in the number of Canadians receiving regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. Its press release noted, â€œThis decline brings the number of beneficiaries to a level similar to that observed before the start of the labour-market downturn in 2008.â€
But the number of unemployed workers remains stuck at 1.4 million, far above the 1.1 million before the financial crisis. The federal government has cut EI to pre-recession levels even though the job market remains in recession.
The proportion of officially unemployed Canadians receiving EI is down to 36.5 per cent: 503,920 recipients out of 1,380,300 unemployed workers in July. That is the lowest level of EI coverage on record.
Todayâ€™s release also notes that the number of Canadians claiming EI jumped by 7,900 in July, further evidence of a weak job market.
How can the federal government justify its imposition of further restrictions on EI benefits this year, when more Canadians need EI and it apparently enjoys the fiscal space for a discretionary freeze on premiums?