The number of people claiming employment insurance (EI) continued to rise in the Peace Region in the second half of 2015, according to Statistics Canada data released Thursday.
In Dawson Creek, 230 people were collecting EI in November 2015, the most recent month for which data is available. In Fort St. John, 460 people claimed benefits that month.
In Nov. 2014, those totals sat at 170 and 280 people in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, respectively.
Average monthly EI claims rose more than 25 per cent in Dawson Creek, from 165 people in 2014 to 209 last year. Fort St. John saw a sharper increase, from 267 people in 2014 to 425.
The plunge in oil prices contributed to the increase in claims locally and across Canada.
Compared to 2014, the total number of people on EI was up 45,800, or just over nine per cent. According to StatsCan, it was the largest increase since February 2010.
"About two-thirds of this increase was in Alberta," according to the report, which notes that "despite the large year-over-year increase, the number of beneficiaries in Canada has leveled off in recent months."
The trades, transport and equipment operations sector saw a 16.1 per cent increase in claims, nearly half of which was accounted for by Alberta.
Across B.C., EI claims were down around one per cent. Kelowna recorded a slight increase of 1.4 per cent.
The data is adjusted to remove the impacts of seasonal employment in resource sectors.
The benefits are available for "eligible individuals who lose their jobs" who are available and able to work, according to Statistics Canada.
Not covered are people who did not pay into the program in the past 12 months, and employees whose jobs are not insured.
The unemployment rate in Northeast B.C. climbed to 7.6 in December, the most recent month on record. The provincial unemployment rate sits at six per cent.