This time two years ago, 260 people in Fort St. John were collecting employment insurance benefits.
Now, more than 1,000 are claiming EI.
According to Statistics Canada data released Sept. 22, 1,090 people in Fort St. John and 480 in Dawson Creek collected some form of income benefit in July.
It is the first time Fort St. John has had more than 1,000 EI claimants in data going back to 1997.
The spike can be attributed in part to the Trudeau government’s decision to extend EI benefits in 15 oil-producing regions hard hit by the oil downturn.
Unemployment in Northeast B.C. has risen with the fall in oil and gas prices, peaking at 9.7 per cent in March.
Overall, Canada saw a 4.4 per cent increase month-to-month in EI claims after the new legislation came into effect.
In its employment insurance update, Statistics Canada cautioned against comparing EI claims to previous months because of those changes to the program.
Because more people are eligible to collect benefits for longer, the country saw a 33.4 per cent year-to-year increase in claims.
Dawson Creek and Fort St. John’s number of claims began to climb last October, when 200 and 440 people, respectively, were claiming benefits.
The cities had 460 and 990 claimants in June, the month before the EI changes came into effect.