The number of people receiving employment insurance benefits rose to 697,000 in April, up 2.7 per cent from March. That jump of 18,600 marks the smallest increase in six months, Statistics Canada reported Monday. “While the number of people receiving benefits was up in April, initial and renewal claims received were down 1.7 per cent, following a 2.1 per cent decrease in March,” the federal agency said. The number of EI beneficiaries is up in all provinces and territories, with Alberta and Saskatchewan seeing the largest percentage increases in April. Since October 2008, when the global financial crisis began to be felt in Canada, the number of regular EI beneficiaries has risen by 39.3 per cent.