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PSA: 4.5% jobless rate lowest in 17 years

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star
PSA: 4.5% jobless rate lowest in 17 years
Construction work continues at a site in Caloocan City on December 6, 2022.
STAR / Jesse Bustos

MANILA, Philippines — The country’s unemployment rate eased in October, reaching its lowest level in 17 years, but the number of employed individuals dropped from the previous month, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

At a briefing yesterday, National Statistician Dennis Mapa said preliminary results of the Labor Force Survey showed the jobless rate returned to its pre-pandemic level as it logged 4.5 percent in October this year, lower than the five percent in September this year and the 7.4 percent in October last year.

“The last time that we experienced this was in October 2019 when we had an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent,” he said.

He also said the October unemployment rate this year is the lowest since 2005.

The latest jobless rate translates to 2.24 million unemployed Filipinos, down from 2.5 million last September and 3.5 million in October of 2021.

PSA data showed the country’s employment rate rose to 95.5 percent last October from 95 percent in the previous month and 92.6 percent in October last year.

While the employment rate rose last October, the number of employed Filipinos for the month declined to 47.11 million from 47.58 million in September.

The number of employed individuals in October, however, went up compared with the 43.82 million in the same month last year.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the majority of the increase in employment came from the services and industry sectors.

NEDA director general Arsenio Balisacan said the sustained recovery of the labor market supports the agency’s confidence that policies and interventions to reinvigorate the economy are working.

“Our move to finally open face-to-face classes at full capacity has paved the way for us to immediately address the learning losses from the pandemic – this is a precursor to a workforce that demonstrates competence and high productivity. Also, with children back in school, parents-at-home – especially mothers – are also able to pursue more income opportunities,” Balisacan said.

PSA data also showed that the underemployment rate or those looking for additional hours of work eased to 14.2 percent in October this year from 15.4 percent in September this year, and 16.1 percent in October last year.

The labor force participation rate was at 64.2 percent last October, down from 65.2 percent in September, but up compared with 62.6 percent in October last year.

Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, told reporters yesterday that while the latest data show huge improvement, the quality of jobs being created remains a concern.

Balisacan said the NEDA recognizes the need to expand efforts toward creating more and higher quality employment by improving workforce employability.

“We need to do this if we really want to pursue economic transformation,” he said.

Recognizing the role of the private sector in economic growth, he said there is a need for more public-private partnerships to expand skills development and opportunities in the country.

“Accelerating economic recovery requires a whole-of-nation approach; on the government’s part, this entails enabling a vibrant economy – sound macroeconomic fundamentals, a level playing field and ease in doing business transactions and service delivery – so it would be easier for the private sector to participate,” Balisacan said.

He expressed hope that citizens would be more aggressive in improving their skills, as well as in maintaining good health by continuously following the COVID-19 minimum health protocols and getting fully vaccinated.

He said the NEDA aims to ensure strategies under the Philippine Development Plan for 2023 to 2028 will be fully implemented to create more green and high quality jobs.

Underutilized

Despite the reopening of the economy and improvement in employment, many Filipinos remain unproductive and underutilized.

Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa and Progresibong Manggagawa secretary general Josua Mata noted that underutilization of labor is about 20 percent.

“That means that almost one out of five Filipinos is unproductive due to unemployment and underemployment,” Mata said. “This is the usual level of structural unemployment that we have had before the pandemic.”

He said the decline in unemployment can be attributed to the expansion in economic activities in the fourth quarter of the year.

But the improvement in employment, he said, is not expected to continue until next year.

“When we enter next year, we might see slower growth in employment. It’s really hard to stay optimistic when we cannot see concrete action taken by the government to guarantee jobs,” Mata said. – Mayen Jaymalin

PSA

UNEMPLOYMENT

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