Unemployment at lowest during pandemic – survey
MANILA, Philippines — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Thursday said the latest labor force survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed a “much-improved labor market condition,” with the 7.1-percent unemployment rate being the lowest recorded during the pandemic.
“The signs are indeed encouraging. Our economy is gradually getting back on track as more people are actively participating in the labor force and are becoming employed,” he said.
Bello said the vaccination of workers, once enough COVID-19 jabs become available, “should bring back their confidence [for them] to become economically active, along with businesses and consumers.”
National Statistician Dennis Mapa said the number of jobless Filipinos declined to 3.44 million in March, from 4.19 million in February as people looked for other means of livelihood amid the prolonged pandemic and lockdown measures.
Gains may be short-lived
The survey conducted from March 8 to March 27 showed that the unemployment rate eased to 7.1 percent in March from 8.8 percent in February.
But these gains in the jobs sector may be short-lived after half of the economy returned to a more stringent enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in late March up to the present.
The Nagkaisa labor coalition also noted that while the “small drop” in the unemployment rate was good news, the data showed that the biggest increase in employment was among unskilled, lowly paid laborers.
The number of self-employed increased by around 300,000 while the number of employed professionals, managers, technicians, and associate professionals fell, which “may be a manifestation of reduced activities [among] enterprises,” Nagkaisa chair Sonny Matula said.
The small drop in unemployment figures in February “did not yet count the impact of the ECQ which started on March 29,” Matula added.
In all, 48.77 million Filipinos were in the labor force in March, higher than February’s 47.34 million. Participation among the labor force population also rose to 65 percent in March from 63.5 percent in February.
Mapa explained that nationwide, loosening quarantine measures at the start of the year allowed previously restricted age groups to find employment.
Due to relaxed ECQ
For instance, the labor force participation rate in March among those 15 to 24 years old rose by 2.4 percentage points compared to February levels, while senior citizens age 65 and above also looked for jobs, hiking their participation rate by 2.3 percentage points, Mapa said.
In a joint statement, President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic managers – which includes Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, and Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado – said that “with the recovery of the economy after the ECQ was relaxed in mid-2020, 11.5 million jobs have been generated as of March 2021, more than offsetting the 8.7 million jobs lost in the period [covering] March to May 2020.”
“This translates to a net job creation of 2.8 million jobs” from the onset of the pandemic up to the present, they added.
The number of underemployed Filipinos – those who wanted higher-paying jobs and longer working hours – also declined to 7.34 million in March, from 7.85 million in February.
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