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Hundreds line up for various booths at the The National Job Fair and Training Expo earlier this year at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

The number of Canadians getting jobless benefits has fallen its lowest level in nearly four years, after the recession caused claims to spike.

Half a million -- or 508,000 people -- got regular employment insurance benefits in July, a small drop from the previous month. The number of people on EI is 6.4 per cent below the same month last year and at the lowest level since October, 2008.

The number of people on EI grew in Alberta and Ontario, and fell in Prince Edward Island and Quebec, Statistics Canada said Thursday.

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Before getting benefits, people must first submit a claim. The number of new claims and renewals was little changed at 232,400 people, with increases in Saskatchewan and Ontario.

The reduced number of beneficiaries suggest waning pressure on government finances. But they don't include a key piece of information: unlike the United States, the stats don't tell us how many have seen those benefits run out without finding work.

The numbers come as the federal government is reforming EI system, with details of its new regulations expected this fall.

Across the country, 1.37 million Canadians were jobless last month, a slight increase from the same time last year, according to Statscan's labour force survey.

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About the Author

Tavia Grant has worked at The Globe and Mail since early 2005, covering topics from employment and currency markets to trade, microfinance and Latin American economies. She previously worked for Bloomberg News in Toronto and Zurich, writing on mining, stocks, currencies and secret Swiss bank accounts. More

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