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Statistics Canada reports 672,200 people received regular Employment Insurance benefits in July, down 31,400 from June.

The agency says the decline offsets spring increases and brings the number of beneficiaries back to the level recorded in March.

The number of beneficiaries dropped in nine provinces, with the most notable declines in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and New Brunswick.

There was a small increase in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The decline in the number of regular EI beneficiaries has totalled 157,100 since they peaked in June 2009, offsetting nearly half of the 329,000 increase of the 2008-09 recession.

In July, 247,900 initial and renewal claims were received, up 6,200 from June.