The unemployment rate in the country stayed steady in January despite efforts to restore millions of lost jobs due to the pandemic, but the Duterte administration’s economic managers said they now see signs of promising recovery.
The jobless rate among Filipinos in the first month of the year was unchanged from its October 2020 level at 8.7 percent, equivalent to around four-million unemployed individuals aged 15-year-old and above, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed.
But in terms of magnitude, the latest Labor Force Survey (LFS) by the PSA also revealed that there were additional 1.6 million jobless Filipinos since January 2020.
However, the government’s economic team, led by Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, noted some key improvements in the latest PSA LFS data, particularly in the number of Filipinos who rejoined the local workforce.
Between October and January, the economic managers said that about 1.4 million jobs were restored as the labor force participation rate—the proportion of the working age population that is either working or actively looking for job—increased from 58.7 percent to 60.5 percent.
But the improvement in the labor force participation rate (LFPR) during three-month period was not enough to recover its annual losses. Year-on-year, the Philippines’ LFPR weakened from 61.7 percent in January 2020.
Meanwhile, the biggest improvement in the workforce in January was seen in Metro Manila, where some 269,000 jobs were regained. The jobless rate in the National Capital Region (NCR) declined from 12.4 percent in October to 8.8 percent.
Likewise, the underemployment rate in NCR dropped to 8.2 percent in January from 11.1 percent in the same month a year ago.
However, unemployment situation in areas outside Metro Manila has worsened to 8.7 percent in January from 8.2 percent, while the underemployment rate also went up from 14.9 percent to 17.1 percent during the same period.
The economic managers attributed this rise on the loss of jobs and reduction in income from weather disturbances and flooding, as well as outbreak of the African Swine Fever that badly affected livestock production.
Likewise, the continued mobility restrictions, which affected travel and domestic tourism especially around the holiday season when people in the provinces typically have additional income opportunities, fueled the joblessness, the economic team said.
In the national level, underemployment rate increased to 16 percent in January to 16 percent from 14.4 percent in October. Year-on-year, it was also higher from 14.8 percent.
“While the data show that across sectors, we are gradually getting back the jobs we lost due to the pandemic, the smaller progress in the past quarter suggests that we still need to address the remaining restrictions before the economy can get closer to normal,” the economic team said.
President Duterte’s economic mangers are composed of Dominguez, Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua and Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado.
To spur job creation, the three Cabinet officials reiterated their call to gradually and safely relax the community quarantine protocols and only use localized quarantine when needed.
The economic team also wants to expand the age group allowed to go out, subject to health safeguards, to increase consumer demand, and further open public transportation, including supporting active transport, such as more protected bicycle lanes.
“All these will provide Filipinos with more job opportunities, as well as safer and more convenient options to go to work,” the economic managers said.