Number of CERB claimants topped number of jobless by a million last month, statistics show
May 19, 2020
Those figures raise questions about who exactly is getting the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, meant to help people made jobless by the COVID-19 pandemic
Statistics Canada’s labour-force survey for last month, completed April 18, points to three million people having lost their jobs and another 2.5 million working less than half their normal hours since the pandemic started — 5.5 million in total.
But by April 19, the government had received CERB claims from 6.7 million people, a difference of more than a million people.
Economists are divided about what that means. Some suggest it’s simply a statistical anomaly, the employment numbers not lining up chronologically with CERB stats.
“It’s close enough that it’s likely a timing issue,” said David Macdonald, a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Others believe it’s at least partly explained by Canadians taking advantage of a wide-open benefits scheme, legally or not.
“The capacity for abuse or opportunistic behaviour in this program is enormous,” said Philip Cross, a former Statistics Canada economist and fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. “If you advertise that you’re going to be approved — no questions asked — you’re going to get pensioners applying for it.”
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