February 6, 2023

Juan Kabayan

All the News All the Time

Unemployment rate lowest in 18 years

(UPDATE) THE country’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.2 percent in November, the lowest in nearly 18 years.

In a briefing on Friday, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said preliminary results of its Labor Force Survey showed that the 4.2 percent rate was lower than the 4.5 percent in October and 6.5 percent in the same month in 2021.

In terms of actual figures, there were 983,000 fewer jobless individuals during that period, the PSA said.

From 2.18 million, the number of unemployed improved from 2.24 million in October and 3.16 million a year earlier.

The figure was the lowest rate since April 2005.

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Underemployment worsened slightly to 14.4 percent from October’s 14.2 percent.

It was 16.8 percent a year earlier.

This means the number of employed persons looking for more work went up to 7.16 million from 6.67 million a month earlier.

The employment rate of 95.8 percent was also the highest since April 2005.

The PSA said 49.71 million persons more than 15 years old had jobs as of November, up from 47.11 million in October and 45.47 million a year ago.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the strong labor market “signifies the steady recovery of our economy.”

“With the release of the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2023-2028, we are starting our work toward deepening economic and social transformation,” Balisacan said.

“Creating an enabling environment to attract investments that can create more and high-quality employment while improving the employability of Filipinos are among the major strategies to advance economic and social transformation,” he added.

The Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) was higher at 67.5 percent than 62.4 percent in the same month in 2021 and October.

An additional 3.2 million Filipinos, of whom 2.5 million are women, joined the labor force in November 2021, increasing women’s labor force participation to 57.8 percent from 52.2 percent.

“We see a more dynamic labor market as flexible work arrangements and digitalization provide easier access to employment opportunities for Filipinos who also attend to other essential tasks such as parenting and pursuing higher education, among others,” Balisacan said.

Dominating the labor market in November was the services sector, contributing the largest share of 60.5 percent or 30.08 million to the total employed persons during the month.

The industry sector followed with 21.4 percent (8.97 million) and agriculture with 18.1 percent (10.64 million).

Wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles saw the biggest month-on-month gain in employment in November, with an additional 941,000 employed persons to 11.32 million.

A total of 4.34 million individuals were also employed in manufacturing, equivalent to 668,000 more individuals.

Estimates for the month’s average weekly hours were 39.3, down from the 40.2 hours in October.

The PDP recently released by the NEDA outlines key strategies to improve the income-earning ability of Filipinos.

The plans include expanding opportunities for lifelong learning, training and re-training programs, and developing the adaptability of the current and future workforce to the changing demands of the labor market.

The PDP also includes strategies to enhance labor market information systems and employment facilitation services.

Employer’s Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) President Sergio Ortiz-Luis said the recent employment data shows that the economy is recovering, but that underemployment remains an issue.

In a briefing Friday, Ortiz-Luis said the 95.8 percent employment rating last November is encouraging, but it also underscored that underemployment also rose because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He attributed the rise in underemployment to “rotations happening in the workplace, only partial work happening because of the pandemic, those who work at home but not the whole day, and so much more.”

Despite the high underemployment, things are slowly getting back to normal and that micro and businesses that closed during the pandemic should reopen and go “full blast” once again, he said.

He said the factors that boosted employment included the new business laws, policies, and government agencies.

“The Ease of Doing Business Act really helped tremendously in bringing more jobs to the Philippines which in turn generated employment,” Ortiz-Luis said. “The Anti-Red Tape Authority’s presence (ARTA) also helped in convincing more businesses to open but more work still needs to be done as there are still many laws and policies that restrict establishing businesses in the country.”