More Filipinos employed in May but jobless number—3.73M—still high
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines’ unemployment rate eased to 7.7 percent in May, although the number of jobless Filipinos remained high—3.73 million—after areas accounting for half of the economy returned to less stringent quarantine, the government reported on Thursday (July 1).
With nationwide mass inoculation against SARS Cov2, the virus that causes COVID-19, now applying to essential workers, or the A4 group according to government jargon, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said he was optimistic that unemployment would further decline in June.
“Since vaccination is moving faster and quarantine level’s lower, further improvement [in jobs was] likely,” Chua, the country’s chief economist heading the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), told the Inquirer.
According to a joint statement issued by President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic team—Chua, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado—829,662 workers already received their first dose of vaccines as of June 27, compared to only 11,430 last May.
The Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) labor force survey (LFS) conducted in May showed a lower jobless rate compared to 8.7 percent in April, when 4.14 million Filipinos had no work partly as National Capital Region (NCR) Plus reverted to the most stringent lockdown level before March ended to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases.
By mid-May, NCR Plus—Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal—which hosted many manufacturing and export zones was placed under the lesser general community quarantine (GCQ).
National Statistician Dennis Mapa told a press briefing that the easing of restrictions in NCR Plus contributed to the lower national unemployment rate.
While the May LFS round did not break down regional data, Mapa said employment improved in Metro Manila as well as Central Luzon and Calabarzon, the regions where the NCR Plus areas belonged.
Less stringent quarantine also increased the labor force population — those aged 15 and above who were employed or unemployed — to 48.45 million in May from 47.41 million in April, Mapa said.
The labor force participation rate last May also rose to 64.6 percent from April’s 63.2 percent as more looked for jobs.
Mapa said the sectors which added the most jobs in May were wholesale and retail trade, and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles; agriculture and forestry; public administration and defense, and compulsory social security; construction; as well as other service activities.
The number of Filipinos with jobs in May—44.72 million—increased from 43.27 million in April, although still below March’s 45.33 million.
The May LFS also showed underemployment — those with jobs who wanted higher pay or longer working hours — slid to a record-low 12.3 percent, a rate even better than pre-pandemic levels. The underemployment rate last May was equivalent to 5.49 million workers, down from over 7 million during previous months.
Mapa said the PSA’s May survey showed a “substantial” number of Filipinos with full-time work across various sectors and types of jobs.
A separate report published by Neda last Wednesday(June 30) on the earlier April LFS data showed the Philippines’ jobless rate was better only than in India — which is being ravaged by COVID-19–across emerging Asian economies.
India’s unemployment rate jumped to 9.9 percent from April to May, compared to 6.6 percent from January to March.
Most of the Philippines’ neighbors nonetheless had better jobless rates, based on latest data: China’s 3.9 percent in March; Indonesia, 6.3 percent as of February; Malaysia, 4.7 percent last March; Thailand, 1.9 percent as of October to December 2020; and Vietnam, 2.4 percent as of March, Neda’s report showed.
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