PH jobless rate eased to 7.4% in October
MANILA, Philippines—With economic reopening from the most stringent COVID-19 lockdowns in full swing, more Filipinos returned to their jobs in October, bringing the unemployment rate down to a three-month low of 7.4 percent.
Out of the 3.5 million jobless Filipinos in October — also the lowest in three months, some 46,000 used to be employed in the education sector, which was badly hit by the prolonged suspension of face-to-face classes to keep school children safe from infection.
The Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) quarterly labor force survey (LFS) in October showed the number of Filipinos aged 15 and above who were either employed or unemployed slightly declined to 47.3 million from 47.8 million in September, when the Philippines shifted to alert levels which contained cases within localities instead of blanket lockdown restrictions across bigger areas, as done in the past.
As such, 43.8 million Filipinos had jobs in October, but 7 million of them were underemployed or looking for longer working hours or higher-paying jobs as they settled with part-time arrangements.
October’s underemployment rate of 16.1 percent was the highest in three months, but President Duterte’s economic managers noted that “more people are employed today than in the months before the pandemic struck.”
“Employment creation remained positive as 234,000 more Filipinos were able to find work in [October]. This brings total employment to 1.3 million above pre-pandemic levels,” Budget Officer-in-Charge Tina Rose Marie Canda, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said in a joint statement reacting to Tuesday’s October LFS report.
“Better employment outcomes in October were driven by the government’s policies that further reopened the economy safely, such as shifting to the alert level system and granular lockdowns from large-area and blanket quarantines and allowing more mobility for vaccinated individuals,” the economic team said.
“Credit should also be given to the close collaboration between the private sector and government not only in accelerating the inoculation drive for our people but also in enforcing the minimum health protocols to contain infections,” they added.
National Statistician Dennis Mapa told a press briefing that on a year-on-year basis, the biggest increases in employment in October were posted in the following sectors: wholesale and retail trade plus repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (up by 1.32 million jobs); agriculture and forestry (up by 990,000); manufacturing (up by 297,000); public administration and defense, plus compulsory social security (up by 287,000); and other service activities (up by 239,000).
Quarter-on-quarter or compared to July before the Delta strain of COVID-19 forced a revert to the strictest enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces last August, the largest increments in jobs were in agriculture and forestry (up by 1.35 million); wholesale and retail trade plus repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (up by 1.2 million); as well as fishing and aquaculture (up by 234,000).
On the other hand, the biggest quarter-on-quarter drops in employment were recorded in the sectors of construction (down by 291,000 jobs); manufacturing (down by 213,000); transportation and storage (down by 123,000); professional, scientific and technical activities (also down by 123,000); and financial and insurance activities (down by 78,000).
Year-on-year, the largest declines were suffered by education (down by 46,000 jobs); financial and insurance activities (down by 8,000); electricity, gas, steam, and air-conditioning supply (down by 6,000); information and communication (down by 4,000); and activities of extraterritorial organizations and bodies or regional and global institutions operating in the country (down by 900).
Mapa said the quarter-on-quarter job shedding in the construction sector likely happened due to finished public and private projects.
Meanwhile, Mapa said most of the job losses in the education sector were observed in privately run pre-primary and primary education institutions.
Sought for comment, Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (Cocopea) managing director Joseph Noel Estrada said private preschools and elementary schools dealt with “lower demand because of economic difficulties, challenges in online platforms, and the migration to public schools where it’s free.”
For Estrada, the job losses among education personnel and the possibility that some younger school children stopped attending classes were a concern. “Anytime there’s a disruption in education, especially in the formative years, it’s always concerning.”
Mapa said the pilot of in-person learning would help resume jobs in private kindergarten and elementary schools.
“Gradually, the pilot of face-to-face classes will help some schools recover. But it really depends on how ready and confident the parents are sending their kids back to schools to in-person classes,” Estrada, for his part, said.
“Backed by a stronger healthcare system, we will solidify our recovery by reopening the economy to alert level 1 in January 2022. At the same time, to avert long-term productivity losses and restore more employment, we will resume face-to-face schooling in January 2022, increase public transport capacity for all transport types to 100 percent, and relax restrictions for domestic and international travel,” the economic team said.
In its Philippines Economic Update December 2021 report on Tuesday, the Washington-based World Bank said that amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, “low-skilled occupations and workers in low productivity sectors increased, indicating an overall deterioration of job quality” in the Philippines.
“Employment in high productivity sectors including real estate, finance, and information and communication remained flat. The reallocation of labor to less productive sectors and the lack of jobs growth in more productive industries also point to a slowdown in the structural transformation of the labor market,” the World Bank said.
According to the World Bank, the pandemic “highlighted the disproportionate share of employment among low productivity sectors,” citing that “businesses in the agriculture and wholesale and retail trade sectors were able to add jobs easily, many of which are likely informal and low costs to employers.”
“Unskilled workers without safety nets and in urgent needs for additional incomes, sought immediate work opportunities in these sectors” during lockdown shifts, the World Bank noted.
The World Bank warned that “disruptions in employment will likely have long-term impacts on labor productivity, earnings, and other labor market outcomes.”
“The pandemic has been particularly acute for young people much more than previous crises. Not only have many young people experienced prolonged distance learning without in-person classes, those looking for jobs also face bleak employment prospects and high unemployment rates. Young workers are far more likely to be in inflexible jobs than their older counterparts, significantly exposed to the pandemic shock. Many young people who became unemployed may have accepted low-paying jobs, driven by the search for earnings opportunities that they would not have otherwise accepted under normal circumstances or for which they are over-qualified. Such scarring begins with labor market outcomes, but has a wide range of implications on overall wellbeing such as on earnings, marriage, fertility, and asset-building,” according to the World Bank.
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