Philippines: Jobless rate eases, but more looking for extra work

MANILA, Philippines — The country’s jobless rate in July slipped to its lowest level during the pandemic as the economy continued its reopening, but the number of people looking for additional work increased, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

In a briefing yesterday, national statistician Dennis Mapa said preliminary results of the Labor Force Survey showed the country’s unemployment rate was at 5.2 percent in July. This is down from the six percent jobless rate in June this year, and the 7.2 percent in July last year.

The unemployment rate translates to 2.60 million jobless Filipinos in July this year, lower than the 2.99 million in the previous month and the 3.23 million in July last year.

“The July numbers are very promising… The July unemployment rate of 5.2 (percent) is the lowest since the 4.5 percent in October 2019 pre-pandemic,” Mapa said.

He said the reopening of the economy is the biggest reason for the return of employment.

“When there were strict restrictions, lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, the unemployment rate really increased and the labor force participation went down,” he said.

Mapa  said the average number of unemployed persons  from January to July hit 2.9 million.  This was still higher than the 2.26 million who were jobless in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

PSA data showed the number of underemployed, or those looking for additional hours of work or an  additional job, was estimated at  6.54 million in July this year, up from the 5.89 million in June.

The number of underemployed in July, however, was down from 8.77 million in the same month last year.

The underemployment rate was 13.8 percent in July, higher than the 12.6 percent in the previous month, but lower than the 21 percent in July of last year.

PSA data also showed the employment rate rose to 94.8 percent in July  from 94 percent in the previous month and 92.8 percent in July 2021.

This translated to 47.39 million employed persons in July this year, up from 46.59 million in the previous month, and 41.67 million in July last year.

PSA said the top five sub-sectors which saw the largest  increases in the number of employed persons year-on-year in July were wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (2.14 million); agriculture and forestry (1.74 million); accommodation and food service activities (498,000); other service activities (354,000), and public administration and defense, compulsory social security (206,000).

Meanwhile, those with biggest decline in jobs year-on-year in July were: professional, scientific, and technical activities (93,000); information and communication (54,000); manufacturing (34,000); water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (11,000); and mining and quarrying (10,000).

There were 49.99 million people in the labor force in July this year.

Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. chief economist Michael Ricafort said the latest improvement in unemployment defied effects of higher inflation and interest rates or financing costs.

“In view of the challenges brought about by higher inflation or prices, risk of US recession, residual effects of the pandemic on the economy, government intervention measures to further boost the productivity of the agriculture sector would help alleviate more people from poverty especially in rural areas since agriculture is a major source of employment especially in the rural areas,” he said.

He said many businesses such as those in tourism or travel and other industries that involve attracting crowds, would need to reopen further to bring unemployment back to pre-pandemic levels.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the government expects more jobs and income opportunities to be available for Filipinos in the coming months as the economy fully reopens.

“These opportunities will help temper the impact of global inflationary pressures on the purchasing power of Filipinos,” he said.

He said the continuous reopening of schools is a pivotal step for all economic players as the latest data shows more youth have opted to return to  face-to-face classes, allowing women to be relieved of additional care work at home to be more economically active.

To encourage economic activity and sustain alert levels, he said there is a need to intensify the vaccination program by increasing the booster rate.

He also said the timely passage of the 2023 budget would help accelerate recovery and enable the implementation of priority programs in the medium term to mitigate the impact of risks to the economy.