Jobless rate steady at 4.8% in February

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star
Jobless rate steady at 4.8% in February
Some commuters at the EDSA Carousel Nepa Q-Mart Station are seen wearing their face masks on March 29, 2023.
STAR / Jesse Bustos

MANILA, Philippines — The number of jobless Filipinos went up in February from the previous month, but the quality of available jobs improved, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported yesterday.

In a press briefing, National Statistician Dennis Mapa said preliminary results of the PSA’s Labor Force Survey showed the number of unemployed rose to 2.47 million in February from 2.37 million in January.

Despite the increase in those who were unemployed, the jobless rate held steady at 4.8 percent in February compared to January.

The number of unemployed Filipinos in February, however, is lower compared to the 3.13 million jobless in the same month last year.

Meanwhile, job quality improved as underemployed individuals, or those looking for additional hours of work, declined to 6.29 million in February from 6.65 million the previous month, and 6.38 million in February last year.

This translates to an underemployment rate of 12.9 percent in February, down from 14.1 percent in January and 14 percent in February last year.

Mapa said the industries with the biggest drop in employment in February compared to January are manufacturing (-319,000); administrative and support service activities (-177,000); information and communication (-79,000); real estate activities (-77,000); and transportation and storage (-73,000).

Those with the largest decline in employed individuals in February compared to the same month last year are human health and social work activities (-129,000); construction (-103,000); mining and quarrying (-60,000); information and communication (-55,000); and manufacturing (-38,000).

The number of employed Filipinos climbed to 48.80 million in February from 47.35 million in January, and 45.48 million in February last year.

The employment rate remained at 95.2 percent in February this year compared to the previous month, but was up from 93.6 percent in February last year.

Industries with the biggest increase in employment in February compared to January are agriculture and forestry (997,000); construction (277,000); fishing and aquaculture (246,000); wholesale and retail trade, repair of moor vehicles and motorcycles (219,000); and public administration and defense, compulsory social security (213,000).

Those with the highest year-on-year uptick in employed persons in February are wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (701,000); accommodation and food service activities (580,000); agriculture and forestry (554,000); other service activities (362,000); and fishing and aquaculture (340,000).

The country’s labor force participation rate was at 66.6 percent in February, up from the previous month’s 64.5 percent, and 63.8 percent in February 2022.

National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the latest data on the country’s workforce show the Philippine labor market is steadily recovering.

“The lifting of various restrictions that previously impeded employment opportunities has resulted in an increase in job prospects for Filipino workers,” he said.

While there are improvements in the labor market, he said there are still challenges to improving the quality of jobs available across sectors, making it necessary for the government to continue to push for the creation of high-quality jobs and ensure the upskilling and retooling of workers.

“On the demand side, the strategy to create high-quality job opportunities begins with attracting more investments especially in infrastructure and in improving the regulatory environment. These interventions will improve the competitiveness of the entire economy and result in greater investor interest in other industries. Our participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the amendments to the Public Service Act pave the way for more high-paying job opportunities being made available to Filipinos,” he said.

He said the government would also step up efforts to raise awareness on available opportunities on enhancing workers’ skills.

“On the supply side, there is a need to improve the dissemination of information and awareness campaigns to encourage workers to utilize the existing resources for upskilling and retooling,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) said the steady unemployment rate is a “positive development” that indicates that the country is bouncing back from the adverse impact of the pandemic.

FFW president Sonny Matula, however, expressed concern that the continued rise in prices of essential commodities as well as hoarding could threaten the progress in employment.

“It can be said that the increase in employment means more families can provide for themselves and put meals on their tables, but we need to do more in the agriculture and industry sectors,” Matula said.

He said jobs in the agriculture and industry sectors are more secure and regular compared to the services sector that provides mostly contractual and temporary employment.

“Therefore, we urge the government to focus more attention on resources in these sectors to create even more job opportunities that are more stable,” he said.

The growth of agriculture and industry sectors, he said, can help create a more resilient economy. – Mayen Jaymalin

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