Philippines: Unemployment rate steadies at 6% in June

MANILA, Philippines — Filipinos are in search of more earnings as elevated commodity prices continue to bite, with older people also trying to get into the labor market to secure extra income.

Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that the number of jobless Filipinos slightly increased to 2.99 million in June from 2.93 million in May, but the unemployment rate remained at six percent.

More Filipinos went out and looked for work in June, with the labor force participation rate increasing to 64.8 percent of the total working age population from 64 percent in May.

This translates to around 49.58 million economically active Filipinos whether employed or looking for work, an improvement from the 49.01 million in March. Unfortunately, not all of them managed to secure a job.

National statistician Dennis Mapa noted that there has been a significant jump among Filipinos aged 35 to 44 who joined the labor force in June.

As the economy continues to reopen and restrictions are eased, the labor force participation rate also increases. But this is not the only reason as the current problem of higher commodity prices is also pushing Filipinos to secure a job.

About 65 percent said they wanted more earnings, and this trend has been on the rise compared to 62 percent in January.

“I suppose you will be looking for more jobs to augment your household income to cover the minimum expenditure,” Mapa said.

Leonardo Lanzona, labor economist and professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, said the economy seems to be stagnant, resulting in greater labor force participation of older persons who are willing to accept whatever job offers they receive.

“Inflation and other supply constraints are causing a decline in production, and yet people are looking for work and finding them. This can suggest that the economy is still overheating, leading to greater inflation,” Lanzona said.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the country needs a safe and full reopening of the economy to return to a high-growth path and reinvigorate job creation.

In the near term, Balisacan said the government would prioritize the immediate issues of rising inflation, the vulnerability of certain groups to shocks, and the pandemic-induced scarring.

He said the resumption of face-to-face schooling would also boost domestic activities and insulate the economy against external headwinds.

As of the first semester, average unemployment was at six percent, lower than the 7.8 percent in the same period last year.

However, this is still significantly higher than the pre-pandemic level of 5.1 percent, which means that roughly 700,000 more people should be employed.

On the brighter side, the underemployment rate, pertaining to the proportion of people looking for more hours of work, went down to 12.6 percent or 5.89 million Filipinos from 14.5 percent or 6.67 million in May.

The June underemployment print is the second lowest since the pandemic started.

The average weekly hours of work of an employed person went up to 40.3 hours from 39.8 hours.

Mapa said the significant decrease in underemployment was evident in the sectors of wholesale and retail trade, construction, fishing and aquaculture, manufacturing, and transportation and storage.

While this is a good indication of the improving quality of work, Balisacan argued that the government should continue to boost its efforts toward providing an environment conducive to the creation of more and better employment opportunities.

Meanwhile, PSA data showed that the biggest driver of the employment gain during the month was agriculture and forestry at 1.26 million.

Other industries that showed the largest increase in job creation include public administration and defense at 164,000, education at 141,000, mining and quarrying at 138,000, and other service activities at 132,000.

On the other hand, contributing to the drop in employment were wholesale and retail trade, manufacturing, accommodation and food services, transportation and storage, and financial and insurance activities.

Workers are grouped into the three sectors, namely, agriculture, industry, and the services sector. Those in the services sector comprised most of the employed persons, accounting for 56.5 percent share during the month.

Services sector was followed by agriculture with 24.5 percent share while the industry sector accounted for the smallest share of 19 percent.