By Ana Olivia A. Tirona, Searcher
The PHILIPPINES’ unemployment rate stabilized on a monthly basis in February, but the number of jobless Filipinos rose to 3.126 million despite the economy gradually reopening, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported Thursday. .
The unemployment rate stood at 6.4% in February, unchanged from the previous month’s unemployment rate but lower than the 8.8% in the same month of 2021, according to preliminary estimates from the latest population survey. active in the agency.
This is the lowest share of unemployed people in the total Filipino labor force for more than two years or since January 2020’s 5.3%.
In absolute terms, the ranks of unemployed Filipinos increased by 201,000 on a monthly basis to 3.126 million in February. However, this figure was 1.061 million lower compared to 4.187 million a year ago, when stricter mobility restrictions were still being implemented.
The size of the Filipino labor force, meanwhile, increased by 2.462 million month-on-month to 48.606 million in February. That was 1.265 million more than the 47.341 million a year ago.
This translated into a labor force participation rate (LFPR) – or the share of the labor force in the total working-age population – of 63.8% that month, a peak of two months since the 65.1% in December last year.
After Alert Level 1 in January, Metro Manila and other areas were placed under a more relaxed Alert Level 2 from February as the number of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID- 19) decreased.
“It has allowed more Filipinos to re-enter the workforce. Our goal is to move the entire country to Alert Level 1 to enable even more Filipinos to Ifnd work,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said in a statement.
As of April 1, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) said 79% of the economy was now below the most forgiving Alert Level 1.
Mr. Chua once again reiterated the need for the full resumption of face-to-face lessons, saying it will allow more parents who are supervising their children’s online lessons to return to work.
“The unchanged unemployment rate just means there is no dramatic improvement in the labor market despite the lowering of the alert level,” Professor Emeritus Rene E. Ofreneo of the University of the Philippines said in a statement. an email interview.
“The average LFPR in the pre-COVID-19 years was around 65-66%. This means that during the COVID-19 years, fewer people of working age were actively “participating” in the labor force (either with a job or looking for a job) because of what we all know — lockdowns and lack of available jobs […] However, this does not mean that the labor market is doing well,” Mr. Ofreneo said.
Meanwhile, Trades Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) spokesman Alan A. Tanjusay said in a Viber message that there was an increase in employment, with some companies seeing an increase in business due of the election campaign period. The national elections are on May 9.
In a press release, the research group IBON Foundation, Inc. said that the increase in the number of jobs does not mean that the jobs crisis is easing.
“Jobs created [in February] are more into part-time work, self-employment and informal work than regular and formal work in private establishments,” IBON said. “It shows that millions of employed Filipinos are just trying to get by with whatever they can to earn a living.”
The quality of jobs has improved as the rate of underemployment – the proportion of those already working but still looking for more work or longer working hours relative to the total labor force – has risen from 14.9% in January to 14% in February. It was also lower than the underemployment rate of 18.2% in the same month last year.
This equates to 6.382 million underemployed Filipinos, 15,000 less than January’s 6.397 million and 1.468 million less than February’s 7.850 million last year.
February’s underemployment rate was the lowest in nine months since 12.3% in May last year.
“The quality of jobs generated is also a serious concern… Underemployment is still too high for comfort,” said Josua T. Mata, general secretary of Progresibong Manggagawa, in a Viber message.
The employment rate – the proportion of employed people to the total labor force – was recorded at 93.6% in February, unchanged from January but higher than 91.2% in February last year.
In absolute terms, this equates to 45.480 million people employed in February compared to 43.018 million in January and 43.153 million in the same month a year ago.
A Filipino worker worked an average of 40.8 hours a week in February, less than 41.8 hours in January but slightly more than 38.9 hours a year ago.
The service sector remained the largest employer in February, accounting for 58.2%. This share was lower than the previous month’s share of 58.9%. It was followed by agriculture (23.9% against 21.7%) and industry (17.9% against 19.3%).
For Mr. Ofreneo, the fall in the share of employment in the industrial sector is “worrying” because itflects the country’s inability to industrialize.
“As far as agriculture is concerned, employment growth is probably due to difficultures of the rural population in Ifand alternative jobs. I say this because the crisis in the agricultural sector is well documented, especially the complaint of farmers,” Mr. Ofreneo added.
Mr. Tanjusay, spokesman for the country’s largest labor federation, said for the coming months, rising inflation due to the conflICTs are “worrying” and can threaten economic growth.
“Temporary employment (created during the campaign period for) national elections will also be taken into account after the elections. Companies and investors will also be waiting to see what the policies of the winning administration will be,” Tanjusay said.
The LFS February Round took place from February 8 to 28.