February 8, 2023

Juan Kabayan

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Unemployment back at pre-pandemic level

(UPDATE) KEY job indicators have returned to pre-pandemic levels, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Wednesday, a development said to be the result of further economic reopening.

Unemployment eased to 4.5 percent in October, preliminary results of the PSA’s latest Labor Force Survey showed, down from the 5.0 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively posted a month and a year earlier.

“This is the lowest unemployment rate recorded for all October rounds since 2019,” the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said in a statement.

Employment, at 95.5 percent from 95 percent in September, “was the highest rate recorded since January 2020 and registered to have bounced back to the pre-pandemic levels,” the PSA separately said.

“The country’s sustained recovery of the labor market backs our confidence that our policies and interventions to reinvigorate our economy are working,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said in the NEDA statement.

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“Our move to finally open face-to-face classes at full capacity has paved the way for us to immediately address the learning losses from the pandemic — this is a precursor to a workforce that demonstrates competence and high productivity,” he added.

“Also, with children back in school, parents-at-home — especially mothers — are also able to pursue more income opportunities.”

National Statistician Dennis Mapa, in a briefing, said the lower unemployment rate translated to 2.24 million Filipinos without jobs, down from 2.50 million in September and 3.50 million in October last year.

The ranks of the employed expanded to 47.11 million, up from 43.82 million a year earlier but slightly lower than September’s 47.58 million.

Mapa attributed the job gains to expanded levels of production in manufacturing as well as increased tourist arrivals ahead of the year-end holiday season.

Underemployment — a measure of those employed who want more work or an extra job — also improved to 14.2 percent or 6.67 million Filipinos. The rate was lower than September’s 15.5 percent and the year-earlier 16.1 percent.

The NEDA, however, noted that the invisibly underemployed — those working in jobs not in their chosen fields or skill sets — “continues to increase as more seek to earn additional income amid the persistent rise in commodity prices.”

Services remained the biggest employer, accounting for 59.2 percent of those with jobs. Agriculture (22.5 percent) and industry (18.3 percent) shared the rest.

Year on year, the wholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycle sector posted a higher increase in jobs (672,000), while quarter on quarter it was transportation and storage (239,000).

Agriculture and forestry accounted for the most job losses both year on year (197,000) and quarter on quarter (511,000).

Storms that hit the country in October were primarily responsible, the NEDA said.

“While the employment numbers have improved, we recognize that we need to expand efforts toward creating more and high-quality employment by improving workforce employability,” Balisacan said.

“We need to do this if we really want to pursue economic transformation.”

He called for more public-private partnerships to expand skills development and opportunities in the country.

“Accelerating economic recovery requires a whole-of-nation approach; on the government’s part, this entails enabling a vibrant economy — sound macroeconomic fundamentals, a level playing field, and ease in doing business transactions and service delivery — so it would be easier for the private sector to participate,” the NEDA chief said.

“Accordingly, we hope that the citizens will be more aggressive in improving their skills as well as maintain good health by continuously following the Covid-19 minimum health protocols and getting fully vaccinated,” he added.