The impact of Covid-19 employment insurance policy changes on beneficiary numbers: A regional analysis in Canada

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University of New Brunswick


Over $345 billion was spent in 2020 on Covid-19-related policies in Canada, with $13 billion of that allocated towards Employment Insurance (EI). In September 2020, Interim Order Number 8 Amending the Employment Insurance Act was introduced relaxing requirements by introducing a 13.1% unemployment rate floor to all regions in Canada. This paper estimates the impact of this policy on the number of EI beneficiaries using monthly data on beneficiaries at the EI economic region and provincial level derived from Statistics Canada. My findings suggest a more than doubling of the average number of beneficiaries across regions after the announcement of the policy. This varies as regions’ true unemployment rates diverge from 13.1%, highlighting the policy’s sensitivity to regional market conditions. The implications of this policy urge us to reevaluate the effectiveness of EI in its current state and set a groundwork for future policy decisions during economic shocks.