Business

Number of EI beneficiaries jumps in July due to changes for hard-hit areas

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the number of people receiving employment insurance payments climbed 4.4 per cent from June to July as changes to extend benefits for those in hard-hit areas kicked in.

The agency said Thursday there were 575,200 people receiving regular EI benefits that month.

The federal government changed the rules to extend benefits in 15 regions that saw significant increases in unemployment.

EI claims totalled 307,600 in July, up 33.4 per cent from the same month a year ago due to the changes.

According to Employment and Social Development Canada, the July claims included about 87,000 one-time automatic renewals related to the EI program changes.

Statistics Canada said the changes accounted for almost a quarter of the total volume of claims in July and more than half of the renewal claims.

The total number of initial claims for the 12 months to July was down 2.1 per cent at 239,600.

The spring federal budget reduced EI waiting periods and added weeks of coverage in 12 parts of the country hurt by the prolonged downturn in commodity prices.

Ottawa later added three more regions in Western Canada that were left out when the changes were first made.

Unemployed workers are able to claim an extra five weeks of regular benefits up to a maximum of 50 weeks. Long-tenured workers are able to receive an additional 20 weeks up to a maximum of 70 weeks.