The number of people receiving employment insurance benefits increased by 23,700 in January, with Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario being the hardest hit, according to Statistics Canada.
The 4.4-per-cent increase from December brings the total number of Canadians receiving EI benefits to 560,400.
In Alberta, 23,300 people received regular EI benefits in January, up 10.5 per cent from December. B.C. had 56,100 beneficiaries, up nine per cent, while Ontario had 181,500, a 6.2-per-cent increase.
In response to this sharp increase, the federal government will spend $60 million to hire more staff to process the additional EI claims and make other improvements.
The money will be used to hire hundreds of new staff, improve the automated processing system and extend benefits by five weeks, said Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Diane Finley.
Ontario hardest hit
Since the most recent low recorded in February 2008, the number of regular EI beneficiaries has climbed by 104,000, or 22.8 per cent. Over half the rise occurred in Ontario, much greater than that province's share of the labour force (39.1 per cent).
The largest increases between January 2008 and January 2009 occurred in Southwestern Ontario, where the manufacturing sector in particular experienced heavy layoffs.
In Windsor, the number of regular beneficiaries rose 81.6 per cent to 10,600. Also affected were London (+70.3 per cent), Kitchener (+70.0 per cent), and Hamilton (+69.0 per cent), as were Guelph, Woodstock, Tillsonburg and Stratford.
In Toronto, the number of regular beneficiaries increased by 48.3 per cent between January 2008 and January 2009.
Other notable increases in beneficiaries over the 12-month period included Calgary (+61.7 per cent), Vancouver (+55.0 per cent) and Edmonton (+48.9 per cent).
Men see sharpest increases
Between January 2008 and January 2009, the increase in the number of men receiving regular EI benefits (+27.1 per cent) was double that of women (+13.8 per cent).
This difference between men and women was reflected in all age groups and in all provinces and territoriesa
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