Joblessness tipped to increase
MANILA -The local labor market’s recovery from the pandemic’s onslaught appears to have stalled and the next quarters may see an upswing in joblessness as the economy shows signs of weakness, according to research firm Pantheon Macroeconomics.
Miguel Chanco, chief emerging Asia economist at Pantheon, said the country’s unemployment rate has shown “no material progress” ever since falling to a low of 4.3 percent in May.
“Labor demand is clearly weakening, based on our reading of the data and looking at the job openings numbers reported by the BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas), which indicate that vacancies are now starting to fall slightly year-over-year,” Chanco said in an e-mailed response to questions. He was referring to central bank data that showed reported job vacancies in June fell to 475,300 from 493,000 in March.
Latest government data showed the number of jobless Filipinos slightly rose to 2.26 million in September from 2.21 million in the previous month. This translated to an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent in September, up from 4.4 percent in August.
National Statistician Claire Dennis Mapa said “lack of available work” was among the reasons given by people who were unemployed in September, leaving them vulnerable to stubbornly high inflation that sizzled to a four-month high of 6.1 percent in September.
But those who were lucky to be employed appeared to enjoy more secure work. There were 5.11 million people who sought more working hours in September to augment their income, down from 5.63 million in August. This translated to an underemployment rate of 10.7 percent in September against the 11.7 percent in the previous month.
According to Chanco, there are signs that an upswing in joblessness might come in the next few quarters as the economy shows some symptoms of weakness.
While the gross domestic product (GDP) snapped three consecutive quarters of slowdown after growing at a faster year-on-year rate of 5.9 percent in July-September period, analysts said growth might remain under pressure from inflation, which can crimp consumption.
Specifically, rising interest rates meant to rein in stubbornly high price growth could hurt the labor market by making business expansion plans costlier for companies.
The Monetary Board will meet on November 16 for a policy meeting, with economists betting on a rate hike pause after inflation eased in October at 4.9 percent.