OTTAWA (Reuters) - The number of Canadians receiving unemployment benefits rose in the resource-sensitive provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan in February, Statistics Canada said on Thursday, illustrating the impact the downturn in resources is still having on the economy.
In Alberta, where the number of people on unemployment has been on an upward trend since the end of 2014, there were 65,140 people receiving regular employment insurance benefits in February, an increase of 2.4 percent from the previous month.
The number of beneficiaries in the province, where the country's vast oil sands are located, shot up 78.9 percent compared to a year ago.
In Saskatchewan, the number of people on benefits increased for the fourth month in a row, up 3.5 percent to 16,740 and up 38.6 percent on an annual basis.
The increases in the two provinces far outpaced the country as a whole, with the number of beneficiaries in Canada rising 0.8 percent on the year and 6.7 percent on the month.
The number of Canadians putting forward employment insurance claims decreased by 4.5 percent in February. It was the first decline since September last year and a potentially encouraging sign as the number of claims gives an indication of the number of people who could become beneficiaries.
The drop in oil prices put Canada in a mild recession last year. While the economy has shown signs of stronger growth in 2016, the resource sector continues to struggle.
Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Bill Trott