RTTNews - Almost 700,000 Canadians were receiving regular Employment Insurance benefits in March, a rise of more than 10 percent from February, according to data released Tuesday morning by Statistics Canada.

681,400 people received Employment Insurance benefits, up by 65,300 or 10.6% from the previous month, with the strongest increases in Alberta and British Columbia. The increase in March was the largest since the labor market started to deteriorate last October.

While the number of people receiving benefits climbed in March, the number of initial and renewal claims received during that month edged down 1.9%.

From October to March, labor market conditions in Canada deteriorated significantly and employment fell sharply. In April, employment increased, boosted by a gain in self-employment.

Since October 2008, the number of regular EI beneficiaries has climbed by 36.2%.

Over the October 2008 to March 2009 period, the number of regular EI beneficiaries has increased across all provinces and territories, with the largest percentage growth in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.

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