Nearly 1 In 4 Canadians Have Now Used CERB, Canada’s Emergency Benefit

The unemployment shock from the pandemic is still working its way around the country. Government of Canada (GoC) data shows Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the unemployment benefit sparked by widespread workplace closures due to the pandemic, is seeing new applications slow in growth as of the week of August 2. The economy is starting to recover, but unemployment is still working its way to new people around the country.

Canada’s CERB Users Are About 47% The Size of The Labour Force

The number of weekly applications for CERB is slowing, but a huge number of Canadians used the benefit. There were 274,000 applicants the week of July 26th, down 9.24% from the week before. The number is down 11.89% from a month before. This brings the total number of people that have used the benefit to 8.51 million as of Aug 2, up 3.25% from just a month before. We’re approaching peak use, but a very large percent of the population has needed to draw on the emergency benefit.

To understand how astronomically large this number is, just look at it as a percent of population. The percent of the population that have used CERB reached 22.42% on Aug 2, up from 21.72% the month before. Not all of the population is a part of the labour force though. The number of CERB recipients as a percent of the labour force works out to 47.71%. Nearly half of working Canadians have drawn on the benefit.

Unsurprisingly, the provinces with the three largest populations represent the provinces with the most users. Ontario has the largest number of users at 3,392,390 as of Aug 2, up 2.70% from last month. Quebec follows with 1,943,460 users, up 3.65% from last month. BC is in third with 1,138,010 benefit users, up 2.98% from last month. The three provinces represent three-quarters of all users in the country.

Canadian CERB Recipients By Province

The number of unique applicants for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) by province on Aug 2, 2020.

Source: Government of Canada, Better Dwelling.

The provinces with the highest growth of unique applicants this month are all in Atlantic Canada. PEI tops growth with 32,160 unique applicants, up 7.63% from the same week last month. Newfoundland follows with 108,680 benefit users, up 5.88% over the same period. In third is New Brunswick at 151,780 uniques, up 5.18% from last month. Obviously smaller numbers are easier to grow, but the growth still implies the damage is far from contained, especially since it’s all in the same region.

Alberta’s Population Has The Highest CERB Use Ratio

The provinces with the largest percent of the population that have needed CERB are mostly the largest by population as well. Alberta has the largest ratio of CERB users at 23.10% as of Aug 2, up from last month’s 22.41%. Ontario made a slightly smaller climb to 23.01%, up from 22.40%. Quebec is third with 22.72% of the population having drawn CERB, up from 21.92% a month before.

Canadian CERB Users As A Percent of Population

The percent of the population that applied for CERB by province, and the national average.

Source: Government of Canada, Better Dwelling.

There is an improvement in the number of new applications, implying growth peaked. However, the spread of unemployment is still working it’s way around the country. New users are still finding their way to the program, despite reports the worst of the economic damage is over.

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  • Jamie 3 years ago

    Half the country’s labour collected unemployment, but the rate never went above 14%. Makes sense.

    • Ethan Wu 3 years ago

      Statistics Canada is a sample survey estimate, not the real unemployment numbers.

      The real number is usually only tabulated using CRA data.

      • Tom Wolfe 3 years ago

        I agree Jamie.

        Ethan – the rate as stated by the federal agency in charge of stating such rates should not be bullsh*t. It cant be 14% and 1 in 2 at the same time. Don’t enable the bullsh*tters by making excuses for them.

        In any case, its time to think for yourselves Canada.

        • John Smith 3 years ago

          This is referring to the general population (1 in 4) and the labour force (for the 1 in 2 figure). It’s saying 1 in 4 from the general population and 1 in 2 from the labour force population. You guys really are in dire need of better reading skills.

    • Sam 3 years ago

      Don’t forget lots of people with part time “jobs” qualify for CERB, e.g. 10 hrs/week @ $20/hr comes in below 1k monthly threshold.

  • Ethan Wu 3 years ago

    The shift to EI is going to drop most of these people, not because they aren’t unemployed, but because very few people understand EI claiming.

    It’s not stupid simple, which is why CERB was so “popular”

  • alvi 3 years ago

    The more interesting question is to what extent current mortgage payments depend on CERB payments and equivalanet programs, no one, really know the answer to this question.

    • Sharon Konwisarz 3 years ago

      Staggering numbers; especially when comparing working Canadians only. Is it fair to predict a dooming down market if we also consider the $1.2MM Mortgage Deferrals that are coming due with hefty penalties & the predicted 1 in 7 businesses closing shop?

  • straw walker 3 years ago

    8.5 million on CREB .. That in includes every living CDN ..including seniors,and children…really?
    Now include 1 in 5 working people are government employees who never …never loose their jobs..
    I’m now believing that at least 2 million are illegally receiving least 2 million …

  • Fight Back 3 years ago

    Can someone state the obvious, this is the most fuked up fictional economy ever. Most of the young people cant afford housing in Toronto or Vancouver. Half of the country is unemployed, yet the government keeps propping up rral estate.

    Someone needs to hold these criminals accountable for creating and propping up this real estate bubble.

    • Boomer Doomer 3 years ago

      I hope you dont have the illusion of living in a democracy where politicians care about people not being able to afford a home.

      We are not, the system don’t care about people, especially young people. They dont vote or organize and easily fooled.

    • zalzon 3 years ago

      Best part is that $150 billion of sub-prime garbage mortgages set to default was quickly transferred from banks onto the backs of taxpayers at the start of the lockdown.

      100 cents on the dollar paid by CMHC on behalf of taxpayers to bamks for that pile of manure.

      What a fraud.

      Is CMHC a lobby group for banksters or will someone at CMHC be charged with dereliction of their fiduciary responsibilities eventually?

      If their entire objective is the transfer of losses from banks to the public, the country certainly does not need this lobby group masquerading as a “social service”.

    • alvi 3 years ago

      Nothing new here, every goverment dollar spent on anything is a sense a prop to real estate industry and every other sector in the economy.
      If you really want to lower hosuing prices, stop spending on health care and education,and let everyone fend for themselves. Just the flood of umemployed public sector workers should do the trick.
      Imagine what housing prices and all prices in general would be if we did not have and enormous goverment sector that young people keep urging their politicians to expand
      To conclude my analysis or rant could have included 1)the enormous contribution that the real estate economy makes to goverment coffers at all levels; and,2) how artificially low interest global interest rates not only juice up real estate and financial markets but goverments spending itself so they can continue to provide the very services that young people worship without regard to effectiveness and efficiency.
      PS we should demand an immediate reimbursement of all CMHC fees to date that flowed to goverment coffers as wel!

  • Fight Back 3 years ago


    Imagine if young people had to pay high taxes and high housing costs so boomers can get free health care and benefit from the housing bubble while young people are being squeezed to no end.

    Oh wait, we dont have to imagine its reality in Canada. We are essentially taxing young people’s soul to feed to old so they can have more real estate paper wealth while this corruption continue. Lets drain the life from our young and transfer to the old let see what happens huh?

    • SH 3 years ago

      Fight Back – it’s Millennials that put Trudeau in office, leading to a 40% spike in immigration and the wage suppression and housing inflation that come with it, both disproportionately impacting young people. I’m not a Boomer (b.1980) but it seems Millennials in Toronto and Vancouver are getting what they asked for when they voted for a hair-do.

      • question guy 3 years ago

        oh please… if the Cons could provide anyone of value maybe people would vote for them

        • SH 3 years ago

          A guy with an addiction to smearing shoe polish on his face is a person of value, in your view?

          Btw lots of people did vote for the Cons. More than those who voted Lib in 2019 in fact. Canada’s seat distribution heavily favours the Liberals, giving more seats per capita to Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and fewer seats per capita to the Prairies. Ontario and BC are both about average per capita.

          But this isn’t a political blog so I’ll end this by saying : you got what you voted for. If you’re unhappy with the results, vote for someone else next time.

  • A;vi 3 years ago

    Fight Back

    It is your cohort along with the vast public sector that supports the borrowing and spending orgy that ” progressive”, \ election -buying parties of all stripes have engaged in the last 15 years(made possible I might by ultra-low interests which were a direcd result of policies and sacrificies made by my cohort).
    You got give credit to all those parties that the courage to balance budgets when interest were 4X highter than the are now
    PS many people in my cohort have kin in your cohort if you have not noticed.

    • Fight Back 3 years ago


      Is it our generation that crested the 2008 crisis, was it us that created the current crisis? Or is it the government trying to enrich their own pockets that caused this problem?

    • SH 3 years ago

      Alvi what “progressive” policies are you referring to, and do you actually have numbers to back up your point?

      My view is that Boomers seem to care far more about their shacks than they do about their children. They don’t care if their kids have to flee the country to avoid a life of debt servitude but god forbid their unearned birth-lottery housing wealth falls by 5%.

      However I will grant you that Millennials are to blame for putting Trudeau in office. That’s almost as unforgivable as the Boomers’ astonishing selfishness. Clearly no generation is blameless.

  • alvi 3 years ago

    Fight Back
    Poor and frauduent credit policies and practices by US banks, egged on by Congress,created the 2008 financial crisis . The global response set-up the utlimate counter-factual : what would happen had goverments around the world not chosen to “stimulate” thier economies? Goverments in the democractic world reacted the way they did because they wanted to appear to be doing something and remain in power.

    • Fight Back 3 years ago


      Are you saying our “democratic” system is not working? If you are I totally agree with you. The current situation is we systematically suck the life blood out of young families and transfer it to the old via taxation and housing.

      Hence we need to wake up and fight back against this system from destroying itself and us as collateral damage. People need to wake up and fight back.

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