National News

Jobs numbers error forces freeze on EI claims

By The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - An error in the jobs report issued last week by Statistics Canada has resulted in a freeze on new employment insurance claims.

Government officials said Wednesday that new EI claims were being put on hold until the agency fixes the mistake.

On Tuesday, Statistics Canada said it found an error in its July Labour Force Survey, and that it would issue a revised report on Friday.

The Aug. 8 report said Canada created just 200 jobs in July and that 35,400 people had stopped looking for work. Prior to the release, economists had widely predicted that 20,000 jobs were likely found during the month.

The monthly jobs report is used to determine regional unemployment rates, which directly impact the number of weeks an unemployed person needs to have worked in order to qualify for EI benefits.

The freeze is not expected to add to the time it takes to process applications for benefits, said Employment and Social Development Canada spokeswoman Kathleen Martin.

"As a result of the correction of the economic regions unemployment rate, there will be no impact to the delivery and processing times of EI claims," Martin said in an email.

"The new correct data will be received from Statistics Canada before any benefits are paid out. All employment insurance benefits will be assessed based on the new, correct data once received from Statistics Canada."

There is a minimum two-week delay between the time someone applies for EI and when they receive benefits.

An official in Employment Minister Jason Kenney's office said there should also be no impact on the number of claims that are processed on time, although no new resources would be allocated to compensate for the freeze.

The department's stated goal is to process 80 per cent of claims with 28 days.

But it has recently fallen behind that target, processing 74.5 per cent of claims within that time frame, said Nick Koolsbergen.

The department said current processing delays are the result of a funding shortfall and "an ongoing high volume of claims."

Conservative MP Scott Armstrong launched a review of EI claim processing times in September, shortly after he was named as Kenney's parliamentary secretary, said Koolsbergen.

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