Growth in the Canadian jobs market rolled along in March, although there were also early signs that an increasing number of young men are dropping out of the hunt for work.

Overall, 73,000 jobs were added last month, Statistics Canada said, with the unemployment rate down 0.2 percentage points to 5.3 per cent, the lowest rate since comparable data became available in 1976.

But the dip was largely due to a decline among male youth, the federal statistics agency said, itself a function of fewer of them looking for work.

The participation rate for young men — a measure that counts those working or looking for work out of a total working-age population — recovered to pre-pandemic levels by summer 2020 and hovered around that level for months.

It dropped 1.3 percentage points to 63.4 per cent last month, the agency said, noting this “is not yet indicative of a long-term trend.”

Young people dealt with a disproportionate amount of the job insecurity created by COVID-19, with many losing jobs or facing reduced hours at workplaces forced to close or alter their operations because of the pandemic.

Many of those jobs returned earlier in the year as restrictions loosened, while in the last two years, more young people have also moved into professional, scientific and technical services as well as health care and social assistance.

Growth in hospitality work slowed in the month after a bounce-back earlier in the year that coincided with a relaxing of public health restrictions.

In Ontario, employment rose by 35,000, boosted by the construction and natural resources industries, after a provincial fall in January and a jump in February.

The Canadian labour market added some 73,000 jobs and hit a record low unemployment rate in March, Statistics Canada said, while noting that fewer young men were either working or looking for work.

Employment in the Toronto census metropolitan area has grown by 243,000 (7.3 per cent) year-over-year, with widespread gains in the wholesale and retail trade, finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing, as well as accommodation and food services.

Nationally, more than one-quarter of those who wanted to work in March but were not looking cited illness or disability as their reason for staying out of the labour market.

One in five gave reasons that suggest they could readily return, including 14 per cent waiting for recalls or replies from an employer and six per cent who believed no work was available.

Personal and family responsibility kept another 17 per cent from looking for work, and a similar number of those surveyed said they didn’t search because they were attending school.

Morgan Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

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"In the real world, currency-issuing governments have no ­intrinsic financial spending constraint. They can purchase whatever is for sale in their own currency, including all unemployed labour desiring work. Mass unemployment is a ­political choice.

The government should introduce what I call a job guarantee by making an unconditional job offer at a socially ­inclusive minimum wage to anyone willing and able to work. The buffer of jobs would normally be small and would shrink as private sector activity recovers. No inflationary pressures arise because government would not be competing for labour at market prices. There is no market bid for the unemployed."