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As governments imposed tougher public health measures to combat the third wave of Covid-19 infections, employment insurance (EI) filings soared in April, according to new data from Statistics Canada.

The national statistical agency reported that the number of Canadians receiving EI benefits jumped by 9.8% in April to 1.6 million, as employment fell by 207,000.

The surge in EI filings followed a province-wide stay-at-home order in Ontario that was implemented on April 8, “circuit breaker” restrictions in British Columbia, and the reinstatement of stricter public health restrictions in many parts of Quebec, StatsCan said.

Ontario led the national increase in EI filers, jumping by 101,000, up 19.1%. B.C. added 20,000 EI filers during the month, up 12.1%.

StatsCan also reported that much of the increase in EI recipients came in the industries most affected by public health measures, including accommodation and food services, culture and recreation, retail trade, and other services.

In April almost 40% of total EI recipients previously worked in one of these industries, up from less than 20% in February, StatsCan said.

It also reported that women accounted for the increase in April filings, with the number of women receiving regular EI benefits rising by 155,000 (22.7%).

The number of men collecting benefits dropped by 11,000.

The increase in female EI recipients was also concentrated in Ontario, StatsCan reported, “reflecting both tightened public health measures and spring break school closures in the province.”

Long-term unemployment has also proved a growing issue during the pandemic, StatsCan noted.

“In April, 41.2% of regular EI recipients had received regular EI benefits or the CERB in at least 10 of the 12 previous months, compared with 1.2% in February 2020, before the pandemic,” it reported.