Jobless rate climbs to 3.9% in March

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star
Jobless rate climbs to 3.9% in March
In a press briefing, National Statistician Dennis Mapa said the PSA’s Labor Force Survey showed the number of unemployed people rose to two million in March from 1.8 million in February.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Heavily impacted by the El Niño phenomenon, certain sectors of the economy shed more jobs in March, causing the country’s unemployment rate to climb to 3.9 percent from 3.5 percent in February, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

In a press briefing, National Statistician Dennis Mapa said the PSA’s Labor Force Survey showed the number of unemployed people rose to two million in March from 1.8 million in February.

The number, however, was lower than the 2.42 million unemployed Filipinos in March 2023.

Mapa said the agriculture sector was heavily impacted by the dry spell, recording the highest reduction in employment in March.

He said the agriculture sector shed 318,000 jobs related to planting, harvesting and growing rice and vegetables in March from the previous month.

“They were affected by the El Niño,” he said.

Other industries which posted large declines in employment in March from February are transportation and storage (-292,000), construction (-214,000) and administrative and support service activities (-118,000).

The employment rate, meanwhile, declined to 96.1 percent in March from 96.5 percent in the previous month.

The March employment rate, however, increased from the 95.3 percent in the same month last year.

An estimated 49.15 million Filipinos were employed in March, up from 48.95 million in February this year and 48.58 million in March 2023.

PSA data also showed the underemployment rate decreased to 11 percent in March from the previous month’s 12.4 percent and 11.2 percent in March 2023.

In terms of magnitude, 5.39 million individuals were underemployed or expressed the desire to have additional hours of work or job in March this year, down from 5.44 million in the same month last year.

Commenting on the latest employment data, National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the government would continue to prioritize creating high-quality and well-paying jobs to address issues of vulnerable employment.

“We will focus on attracting job-generating investments from the private sector and scaling up social and physical infrastructure to improve our people’s employment prospects to achieve this goal. These will be accompanied by reskilling and upskilling programs to increase employability,” he said.?

He said the Inter-Agency Investment Promotion Coordination Committee, which was established following the amendment of the Foreign Investment Act, is leading the formulation of the medium- and long-term Foreign Investment Promotion and Marketing Plan targeted to be completed by June 30.

The plan, which shall provide strategies to promote the country as a premier investment destination, will be based on the competitive advantages, natural resources, skill and educational development, traditional linkages and international market potential of the country.

Balisacan said the government will also work with the private sector to enhance training programs for workers and employers by integrating courses on advanced productivity tools such as data science, analytics and artificial intelligence.?

“For the government to sustain a robust labor market and reap the benefits of the demographic dividend, it must ensure that people are healthy, educated and skilled,” he said.

He said the NEDA continues to push for the passage of the Apprenticeship Bill, Lifelong Learning Bill and the Enterprise Productivity Act to develop workers’ soft and hard skills and enable them to become agile.

Amid elevated prices, he said the review of the minimum wage as directed by President Marcos, is expected to help sustain employment gains while protecting the purchasing power of workers.

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