Men Drive Spike in Canada Jobless Benefits Amid Trudeau Changes

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s expansion of unemployment benefits led to a 4.4 percent increase in recipients in the first month of eligibility -- almost all of them men.

In response to a commodities slump and rising unemployment in energy producing provinces, Trudeau identified 15 special regions where the so-called Employment Insurance program would be extended by paying recipients extra benefits. The changes took effect in July.

There were 24,390 net new male EI recipients in July compared to a net increase of just 20 women, Statistics Canada reported Thursday. As the country’s energy sector moves into the third year of its slump, increases in unemployment benefit recipients have been marked by a sharp gender divide. Compared to the previous year, the number of male EI beneficiaries increased 11 percent in July, while the number of female beneficiaries fell 4.7 percent.

The changes make month-over-month comparisons difficult, Statistics Canada officials said. However, given the measures address labor conditions in the devastated energy sector, they illustrate the persistent Canadian fallout of the commodities slump. Trudeau’s reforms added five weeks of benefit eligibility to claimants in resource-heavy regions.

Claims spiked too as applicants became eligible for new payments, the agency reported. The number of initial and renewal claims rose 26 percent from the previous month -- including 101 percent in Saskatchewan, 91 percent in Alberta and 58 percent in Newfoundland and Labrador, three energy-producing provinces. A large portion of initial and renewal claims were spurred by the Trudeau EI changes taking effect, Statscan said.

The weakness is not confined to energy producers, though. Initial claims, on a percentage basis, actually fell in those provinces while increasing 20 percent in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province and a manufacturing hub that has been expected to benefit from lower energy prices and a corresponding weaker Canadian dollar. Part of the Ontario weakness can be attributed to a relatively low number of claims in July of 2015, the agency said.

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