Philippine unemployment rate eases to 4.5 percent in April

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star
Philippine unemployment rate eases to 4.5 percent in April
Families spend quality time at Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City on June 4, 2023.
STAR / Jesse Bustos

MANILA, Philippines — Unemployment in the country continued to decline in April while job quality improved, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said.

At a briefing yesterday, National Statistician Dennis Mapa said the preliminary results of the PSA’s Labor Force Survey showed the unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 percent in April 2023 from 5.7 percent in the same month last year, and 4.7 percent in the previous month.

This translates to 2.26 million jobless Filipinos in April this year, lower than the 2.76 million in the same month a year ago, and 2.42 million in the previous month.

The quality of jobs in the country improved as the underemployment rate dropped to 12.9 percent in April from 14 percent in the same month in 2022.

The April underemployment rate, however, was higher than the 11.2 percent in March.

There were 6.20 million underemployed individuals or those looking for additional hours of work or job in April, down from the 6.40 million in the same month last year, but more than the 5.44 million in March this year.

The employment rate rose to 95.5 percent in April from 94.3 percent in the same month a year ago, and 95.3 percent in the previous month.

Employed individuals rose to 48.06 million in April from 45.63 million in the same month last year, but went down from 48.58 million in the previous month or in March.

Industries with the biggest year-on-year increase in employment in April are wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (914,000); accommodation and food service activities (379,000); administrative and support service activities (345,000); transportation and storage (321,000) and other service activities (242,000).

Posting the largest drop in employment, meanwhile, are agriculture and forestry (-290,000); manufacturing (-204,000), construction (-65,000).

The country’s labor force participation rate climbed to 65.1 percent in April from 63.4 percent in the same month last year, but was lower than the 66 percent in March.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the government aims to sustain the improvements in the labor market by implementing economic reforms and using digital technology to enhance workers’ employability.

“To ensure the continuation of this trend, the government affirms its commitment to the unimpeded implementation of economic liberalization reforms and other essential legislation. These efforts will be complemented by comprehensive collaborations among government entities and society as a whole to enhance the employability and productivity of our workforce,” NEDA Director General Arsenio Balisacan said.

He said the government can use digital technologies to foster innovation, upgrade services and respond to the needs of the workforce.

“Hence, the complete execution of the Philippine Digital Workforce Competitiveness Act is also vital for equipping the workforce with digital technology skills and fostering innovation,” the socioeconomic planning secretary said further.

He also said collaboration among government agencies, training institutions, technology providers and other stakeholders would be important to address skills mismatches and encourage the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence and extended reality.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, welcomed the easing of unemployment rate and expressed optimism that the pending passage of the Trabaho Para sa Bayan Act would further improve the government employment master plan.

Villanueva said despite the improvement, providing permanent solutions to employment woes in the country still has a long way to go.

“We welcome the further easing of the unemployment rate,” said Villanueva. “However, we still have a long way to go especially now that we are expecting an additional 1.5 million Filipinos to join the workforce this year.”

He said the underemployment rate is also a cause of concern regarding the alignment of workforce skills with the needs of industry.

The senator said job gains remain mainly from the services sector (wholesale and retail, accommodation and food services and administrative and support services), while job loss is noted in key industries for economic transformation, such as in agriculture and forestry, manufacturing and construction.

“Seasonality of employment must also be addressed continuously. For this reason, it is important that we have a  comprehensive employment master plan which would synergize the efforts of all concerned government agencies to address employment woes like job-skills mismatch and training,” he added.

He said before the adjournment of the first regular session of the 19th Congress sine die, the Senate was able to pass the Trabaho Para sa Bayan Act on third reading.

“Currently, the measure is pending at the House of Representatives waiting to be sponsored in plenary. We are hopeful that the measure will be prioritized by the House of Representatives once session opens in July,” he noted. — Cecille Suerte Felipe


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