Jobless rate at 5-month low of 4.3% in May
The jobless rate in the Philippines dropped to a five-month low of 4.3 percent in May as the country continues to recover from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to preliminary data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
National Statistician Dennis Mapa said at a press briefing that last May, the number of job seekers decreased by 760,000 to 2.17 million from 2.93 million in May 2022 when the jobless rate was 6 percent.
Compared to April 2023 when the unemployment rate was 4.5 percent, the number of jobless Filipinos decreased by 89,000, according to the PSA’s latest Labor Force Survey.
The industries that hired the most were agriculture and forestry (with 1.25 million new hires); accommodation and food service activities (398,000); other service activities (365,000); fishing and aquaculture (351,000); and arts, entertainment and recreation (305,000).
On the other hand, the industries that let go of the most workers in May included wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (781,000); construction (274,000); manufacturing (253,000); water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (78,000); and information and communication (51,000).
The PSA also reported that the ranks of the underemployed went down to 11.7 percent from 14.5 percent in May 2022, equivalent to 1 million fewer Filipinos who have jobs but want to earn more by working more hours in their present job, taking on additional jobs, or shifting to a job with more working hours.
In May, there were 5.66 million Filipinos who wanted longer working hours in order to earn more. A year earlier, there were 6.77 million of them. A month earlier in April, there were 6.2 million who were underemployed.
Secretary Arsenio Balisacan of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said in a statement that even with the favorable performance of the domestic labor market, the government will continue to push for and implement reforms to improve the country’s business investment climate.
“It is important that the government remains committed to fostering a favorable investment climate to address critical constraints to high-quality job creation,” Balisacan said.
The country’s chief economist urged Filipinos to enroll in upskilling and lifelong learning programs that are being offered by both government and private education and training institutions.
“We welcome partnerships with the private sector, including international organizations, to ensure that our government services, particularly with respect to employment facilitation, upskilling or retooling, and promoting workers’ protection, are on the same level with global best practices,” he added.
Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, head of the Marcos administration’s economic management team, said the country’s consistently low level of unemployment is a source of optimism not only for the Philippines’ economic output, but also for gainful livelihood opportunities for Filipinos.
“[We are] hard at work to boost productivity through higher public investments in human capital development,” Diokno said.
“This is bolstered by our efforts to attract investments into the country, which will have a positive impact on the creation of more quality jobs,” he added.
This is additional good news for the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop), which expects the unemployment rate in the country to remain low for the rest of the year, banking on expectations that the growth of investments in the country will be enough to keep joblessness in check.
Ecop president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. told the Inquirer that he projects unemployment to stay at the May levels, saying that more jobs will be created in the services, construction, manufacturing and tourism sectors in the remaining months of 2023.
“[The unemployment rate] will be sustained, maybe not exactly, but it will be continuous,” Ortiz-Luis said during a phone interview when sought for comment.
The Ecop official noted that while 800,000 new graduates are expected to join the labor force this year, investments in the country are also growing, resulting in the creation of new jobs.
The Board of Investments, the lead investment promotion agency of the Department of Trade and Industry, approved P532.2 billion worth of investments during the first five months of the year.
This is more than double the P205.7 billion recorded during the same period in 2022.
The Philippine Economic Zone Authority, another government investment promotion agency, also approved P48.027 billion during the same period, more than a two-fold increase of the P18.928 billion from the previous year.
The Ecop official also noted the latest wave of investments from President Marcos’ string of overseas trips, which have generated P3.48 trillion in investment pledges according to the Presidential Communications Office.