El Niño heat, dry spell pushed up joblessness in March

El Niño heat, dry spell pushed up joblessness in March

El Niño heat, dry spell pushed up joblessness in March

National Statistician Claire Dennis Mapa | PHOTO: Official facebook page of the Philippine Statistics Authority

MANILA, Philippines — The number of Filipinos who were either jobless or out of business swelled to 2 million in March from 1.8 million the previous month, as the El Niño weather phenomenon caused disruptions to some sectors, especially agriculture, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

The PSA reported Wednesday that this was equivalent to an unemployment rate of 3.9 percent in March, climbing from 3.5 percent in February, based on results of a nationwide survey of 11,114 households. At a press conference, National Statistician Claire Dennis Mapa said the prolonged dry spell was hurting employment in some sectors, particularly in agriculture, which posted the largest month-on-month job shedding at 318,000.


READ: El Niño damage to PH agri nears P6B


Apart from the onslaught of El Niño, Mapa said the farm sector was still reeling from livestock losses due to the persistence of African swine fever.

The adverse impact of El Niño and the prevalence of animal diseases was evident in the stagnant agriculture output in the first quarter, with the value pegged at P428.99 billion, a negligible increase of 0.05 percent from the same period a year ago, according to a separate PSA report on farm production.

Notably, even the construction sector — which typically sees a surge in activities in hot weather as cement dries up faster — posted a significant drop in employment at 214,000.

More jobseekers

With high temperatures reaching dangerous levels, Robert Dan Roces, chief economist at Security Bank, said “it’s possible that extreme weather conditions could have affected construction activities.”

“While the dry season typically sees a boom in construction activities, other factors, such as labor shortages or [work] shift changes, could have contributed to the decline [in employment],” Roces said.

The spike in unemployment coincided with the increase in the country’s labor force, which represents people aged 15 years old and above who actively sought work.


PSA data showed 51.15 million people were part of the labor force in March, higher than 50.75 million in February. This translated to a labor force participation rate of 65.3 percent, up from 64.8 percent previously.

This could mean there were new jobseekers who failed to secure work during the period.

“Unemployment rate continues its directional trend, falling then rising before falling and rising again. This may be attributed to an economy adjusting postpandemic but it appears that the job availability may not be as consistent with the rate swinging back and forth,” Nicholas Mapa, senior economist at ING Bank in Manila, said.

Better job quality

But some of the new entrants to the labor force who found work appeared to enjoy better job quality.

The PSA reported that there were 5.39 million people who sought additional work in March to augment their income, lower than 6.08 million recorded in February. This was equivalent to an underemployment rate — an indicator of job quality — of 11 percent, falling from 12.4 percent before.

“We will continue to prioritize creating high-quality and well-paying jobs to address the rising issues of vulnerable employment,” Secretary Arsenio Balisacan of the National Economic and Development Authority said.

“We will focus on attracting job-generating investments from the private sector and scaling up social and physical infrastructure to improve our people’s employment prospects to achieve this goal. These will be accompanied by reskilling and upskilling programs to increase employability,” he added.

For economists at China Banking Corp., unemployment in the Philippines remained near historically low levels despite the uptick seen in March.

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”Looking ahead, we expect the labor market to remain stable, supported by a generally favorable outlook for the Philippine economy. On the downside, headwinds, such as still-elevated interest rates and potentially higher wages, could weigh on business sentiment and could push employers to hold off on hiring more workers,” they said in a commentary. —WITH A REPORT FROM JORDEENE LAGARE

TAGS: Agriculture, Construction, El Niño, PSA

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