Unemployment rate softens in July but available jobs less stable

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines (Update 1, 11:40 a.m.) — The country’s unemployment rate eased in July, but quality of available jobs deteriorated during the month while many Filipinos have given up looking for work, exacerbating pandemic hardships.

A quarterly survey of 121,990 families nationwide showed there were 3.07 million people who were either unemployed or out of business in July, lower than 4.57 million in April, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported Tuesday. That figure translates to a jobless rate of 6.9% in July, down from 8.7% recorded in the previous quarter.

The unemployment rate went down as more Filipinos find work amid easing pandemic restrictions. Among major industries, the professional, scientific and technical activities posted the largest month-on-month increase in employment, followed by administrative and support service activities.

But the jobs being created are low quality and do not pay workers enough to make ends meet. Data showed there were 8.69 million Filipinos who were looking for additional work in July to augment their income amid hard times, resulting into an underemployment rate of 20.9%, up from April’s 17.2% rate.

Quality of jobs in the country was so poor that there was an increase in proportion of Filipinos who are already working at least 40 hours in a week but still looking for additional jobs. This segment, classified by PSA as “invisibly underemployed”, was estimated at 4.2 million in July and accounted for 48% of underemployed persons, higher than 28.5% share in April.

To make matters worse, more Filipinos stopped job-hunting because there's not enough work available for everyone. The labor force participation rate, representing people aged 15 years and above who are actively looking for jobs, stood at 59.8% in July to 44.74 million, lower than 61.9% rate in April.

National Statistician Claire Dennis Mapa told a press conference that 2.08 million individuals quit job-hunting in July because of the lingering pandemic. “There are respondents who said they are already tired of looking for jobs because there is no work available,” Mapa said in Filipino.

For economic managers, the labor force “continues to recover”, although the emergence of more contagious coronavirus variants that could result to fresh lockdowns may wipe out some gains in taking jobs back. “The virus will not go away easily and may become endemic. Hence, we need to learn how to manage the risks and live with the virus,” they said.

Already, economic officials are bracing for the impact of another enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) — the strictest lockdown there is — in Metro Manila in August. Considering how the local labor market quickly reacted to changes in community quarantine levels in the past, Nicholas Mapa, senior economist at ING Bank in Manila, said the August jobs report will be bleak.

“The elevated level of unemployment and surging underemployment suggest that consumption will likely stay meager in the near term with overall growth subdued as the economy misses its mainstay contributor to growth,” Mapa said.




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