Amid reopened economy, 2.9M jobless as of May | Inquirer News
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Amid reopened economy, 2.9M jobless as of May

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FILE PHOTO: A man looks at a poster showing the list of jobs for hire. INQUIRER/MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

Some 2.93 million Filipinos were without work as of May this year as the available jobs were not enough for those who looked for work after the economy fully reopened from the pandemic lockdowns, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Thursday.

This translated to an unemployment rate of 6 percent, worse than the 5.7 percent in April when 2.76 million Filipinos were without jobs.

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Results of the PSA May survey showed that the labor force population—or those age 15 and above, with or without work—rose to 49.01 million that month from 48.39 million in April and 48.46 million in May of last year.

While the number of Filipinos with jobs increased to 46.08 million in May, from 45.63 million a month ago and 44.72 million a year ago, a bigger number who entered the labor market outpaced job creation, leading to a higher unemployment rate.

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But according to National Statistician Dennis Mapa, the average unemployment rate of 5.8 percent during the first five months of 2022 was still below the joblessness levels in 2020 and 2021 when the more stringent lockdowns wiped out millions of jobs and shut down thousands of businesses.

Farm work losses

“There’s improvement in the employment outlook,” Mapa told a press briefing, but added that the end-May average rate remained above the 5.1 percent in 2019, or before the pandemic.

“The number of employed individuals increased by 1.4 million in May 2022 from May 2021, bringing total employment to 46.1 million. Significant employment gains were recorded in the services sector as tourism and business outlook improved with the further easing of restrictions. This brings net employment creation to 3.5 million above prepandemic levels,” the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority said in a statement.

Mapa said some election-related jobs boosted employment in May, such as those in web portal development, political organization and, to some extent, catering services.

However, the end of the harvest season shed 733,000 jobs—the biggest month-on-month drop—in the agriculture and forestry sector, especially in areas growing bananas, rice, sugarcane and vegetables, Mapa said. The annual decline was bigger at 766,000 agricultural jobs, PSA data showed.

Just like in previous months, the underemployment rate remained high, at 14.5 percent in May. This meant 6.67 million employed Filipinos wanted higher pay or longer working hours. The number of underemployed a year ago and a month ago were lower at 5.49 million and 6.4 million, respectively.

Mapa said many of the underemployed were in manufacturing, fisheries and aquaculture, agriculture and forestry, wholesale and retail trade, services and transport.

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NBN revival pushed

While sectors such as manufacturing and trade grew as the economy recovered, Mapa said, the quality of some jobs remained below par whenever pandemic curbs reverted to stricter levels.

Relaxed alert levels augured well for retail jobs, he noted, citing an example.

Reacting to the latest unemployment data, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda on Thursday called on the government to undertake an aggressive job creation plan.

He proposed that President Marcos and the House leadership consider reviving the National Broadband Network (NBN) project, an earlier version of which became controversial during the Arroyo administration, along with more available satellite internet in more isolated areas, “so that Filipinos can find digital jobs from anywhere in the world.”

“Freelancers now account for around 2.5 million jobs in the country, and I expect the figure to rise further. I suspect if we drill down, much of the newly created ‘general and administrative services’ work is actually digital freelancing,” he said.

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