Is EI Working for the Unemployed?
The Liberals have promised to monitor the impact of the federal Budget through regular “report cards” on government performance. One key issue to look at is the adequacy (meaning inadequacy) of the EI program at a time of rapidly rising unemployment. The Budget did move very modestly on this front, adding five weeks to eligibility in each EI region, thus extending the range of potential entitlement from 19 to 50 weeks depending on the local unemployment rate.
What impact will this have? The short answer is that we really won’t know for a very long time.
In the United States, the Department of Labor release data on a monthly basis on how many unemployment insurance claims have been exhausted, and the average duration of claims. This means that there is real time tracking of the extent to which the need for benefits is being met. http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/5159report.asp
Here in Canada, Statistics Canada release data monthly on the total number of regular claims and the average benefit in dollars (with some disaggregation.) However, we get no regular data on the number or proportion of exhaustees, or the average duration of benefits (except, sometimes, with a very long lag in the annual EI Monitoring and Assessment Report.)
Data on EI exhaustees and average benefit duration is readily available from HRSDCs administrative files and should be released to Statistics Canada on a monthly basis for publication, with an appropriate breakdown by age, gender, province and EI region. We simply do not know today how many workers hit by the early stages of this downturn in the manufacturing and forest sectors have already or will soon be exhausting benefits, and how many newly laid off workers are managing to find new jobs.
Going one step further, the EI administrative data could be used to track changes in wages of workers following a layoff, and to track other important labour market dynamics.
(With thanks to Laurell Ritchie of the CAW for bringign this issue to my attention.);