Canada’s job market has been firing on all cylinders but it’s been especially strong for men.

More than 193,000 males took new jobs in Canada last year, almost double the number of females, pushing the unemployment rate for men below 6% for the first time since records began in 1976. The figures mark a divergence from the U.S., where women eclipsed men as the majority of jobholders.

The fastest pace of immigration in the Group of Seven is a big factor behind the trend in Canada, spurring a housing boom that’s pushing up demand for everything from plumbers to electricians. A fast-track visa process is also pulling in workers to the male-dominated field of technology, while male immigrants are more likely than women to work outside the home.

Canada notched another solid year of job gains in 2019, with the unemployment rate hovering near a four-decade low of 5.6%. The female unemployment rate dipped even lower than men, reaching a record 4.9% in May but the big job gains have skewed male.

Jared Menkes, executive vice president at Toronto-based Menkes Developments Ltd., said finding enough labor is a constant source of angst. Central Toronto posted the fastest-growing population in North America last year with a dozen office buildings and countless condos under construction, along with 25 light rail stations, hospitals and all sorts of infrastructure work.

“We are short actual labor, whether it’s a crane operator, whether it’s drywallers, electricians, plumbers, drivers,” Menkes said. “We’re short truck drivers, architects, consultants.”

Ontario Leads
To be sure, the headline figures mask stark regional disparities that underscore the difficulties Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing. Much of the job creation has been in central Canada while parts of the West struggle with a slump in the energy sector that has gutted thousands of jobs. Many of those may not come back as the world shifts away from fossil fuels and Trudeau’s Liberals push to reduce Canada’s carbon emissions, creating simmering resentment in Alberta.

Ontario, anchored by bustling Toronto, added 133,200 jobs for men in 2019 -- sending the unemployment rate to 5.3% for males versus 5.4% for females. In recent years, the province has reinvented itself from a manufacturing hub to a services juggernaut, reclaiming its spot from Alberta as the main source of male employment. That trend accelerated last year when nearly 70% of all new male employment was concentrated in Ontario.

Kris O’Neill, a 24-year-old crane operator, is one worker benefiting from Ontario’s resurgence.

“There’s a lot of opportunity out there, especially for young people who don’t know what they’re doing in life,” said O’Neill, who often works 10 to 18 hours a day helping to build one of Toronto’s highest office towers at CIBC Square, the future headquarters of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. “I don’t think since this job started I’ve worked less than a 60-hour week.”

Just under half the 463,100 net migrants to Canada in the 12 months ended Sept. 30 went to Ontario.

In the U.S., men have been held back by mismatched skills, a drift to early retirement and the opioid crisis. U.S. President Donald Trump has also clamped down on visas for the high-tech sector, a source of jobs growth in Canada.

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