Solved the EI problem?

I got an email from someone saying “at least we should be thankful we solved the Employment Insurance problem”. I assume he was refering to the lower unemployment rate.

So, I figure this may be a good time to remind you of the difference between the # of people collecting EI and the unemployment rate because this is a common confusion.

The latest data we have on annual EI users is from 2005. There may be some change since then but I think based on the trending it will be minimal. In 2005, 107,000 New Brunswickers received EI payments (laid off, seasonal EI, training EI benefits and maternity benefits) or as a ratio – about 30% of total employment (see the chart below). That is for everyone that worked in 2006, about 3 out of 10 received an EI cheque. In New Brunswick, we are well over double the national average for folks collecting EI. however, Newfoundland/Labrador takes the cake – by far on this measurement.

Now of course, this is not all seasonal unemployment. There is some maternity and traditional layoff data in there. However, that is similar across provinces. The main area of difference is the seasonal work.

Do not equate “low unemployment” with limited “seasonal unemployment”. New Brunswick still has a huge seasonal workforce that is being paid not to work with tax dollars for some portion of the year. At a policy level, there has been almost no real effort to try and reduce New Brunswick’s reliance on seasonal employment (for example, fishing, forestry, construction, tourims) by any government in recent years. In fact, the federal Conservatives relaxed the eligibility rules around EI when they took the helm.