Unemployment rate rises in May; job quality worsens

Ramon Royandoyan - Philstar.com
Commuters, who are heading to their workplaces, line up at the Nepa Q-Mart station of the EDSA Bus Carousel in Quezon City early Tuesday morning, June 21, 2022, to beat the influx of passengers. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority estimated last week that there will be a possible increase in passenger volume as fewer private cars may ply EDSA due to the continuing hike in oil prices.
The STAR / Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — More Filipinos were either unemployed or out of business in May while the quality of available jobs worsened, in what could be a sign that the economy, while growing again, is struggling to heal the pandemic-battered labor market.

There were 2.93 million jobless Filipinos in May, higher than 2.76 million recorded in April and snapping four straight months of decline, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported Thursday. This translates to an unemployment rate of 6% in May, up from 5.7% in the preceding month.

The number of jobless people grew as some Filipinos who joined the labor force were unable to find work. PSA data showed there were 49.01 million people aged 15 years old and above who actively looked for jobs in May, higher than 48.39 million recorded a month ago.

Broken down, five economic subsectors shed jobs at a quicker pace in May, with agriculture and forestry topping the list as it cut 733,000 from its workforce. Traditionally, farmers harvest their main crops at the peak of dry season in April and May, and plant their alternative crops before June ahead of the rainy season.

But some of those who landed a job were not earning enough money to make ends meet amid hard times, prompting them to look for additional work. According to PSA, there were 6.67 million underemployed persons in May, up from 6.40 million in April. This brought the underemployment rate to 14.5% in May, from 14.0% in the preceding month.

Reflecting on the jobs outturn, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the national government needs to focus on creating quality employment.

“Now, the immediate challenge is the full reopening of the economy. Over the medium term, the government will focus on creating more jobs, quality jobs and green jobs thru-productivity enhancing investments,” Balisacan said.

For Leonardo Lanzona, economist at Ateneo De Manila University, uncertainty in the post-election period was partly responsible for a fewer job prospects.

“Part of this outcome can be a consequence of the election outcome itself. Uncertainty surrounding the elected President is so high that investors have left the markets. But more importantly, the high prices and poor economic conditions have caused firms to reduce operations and employment,” Lanzona said.

“This last factor can be attributed to the failure of the previous administration to create an effective stimulus program that can form the basis for the recovery. The pandemic has exposed weaknesses in the structure of the economy, and there was no response from the Duterte government to these disruptions,” he added.

Separately, Nicholas Antonio Mapa, senior economist at ING Bank in Manila, said the labor market’s mettle will be tested in the coming months, as headwinds persist at home and abroad.

“The fate of the labor market will be determined if the recent pace of economic expansion can be sustained,” he said in an emailed commentary.

“The triple threat of faster inflation, higher rates and elevated national government debt levels will pose a challenge for the recovery but we believe that growth momentum for the most part has held up so far,” Mapa added.

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