Jobless rate jumps amid strict quarantine

Published June 8, 2021, 12:12 PM

by Chino S. Leyco

The rate of jobless Filipinos rose last April due to reimposition of strict quarantine measures along with the increasing working-age population joining the local labor force, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Tuesday, June 8.

The country’s unemployment rate jumped to 8.7 percent in April from 7.1 percent in the previous month. However, the latest figure was significantly lower than the record high of 17.6 percent at the height of enhanced community quarantine in April 2020.

The unemployment rate is equivalent to 4.14 million Filipinos, up from an estimated 3.44 million jobless individuals in March.

According to the PSA, higher labor force was among the factors that drove the national unemployment level.

Preliminary labor force survey (LFS) results showed the number of the working age Filipinos, or those aged 15 and above, in total population increased to about 75 million from 73.7 million a year ago.

Moreover, labor force participation rate accelerated to 63.2 percent during the month from 55.7 percent a year earlier. The rate, however, was slightly lower compared with 65 percent in March 2021.

In addition, the return of major areas, particularly the national capital region (NCR) and nearly provinces, into the strict quarantine restrictions from March 29 to April 30 dragged down the country’s recent employment gains.

The statistics agency said two regions recorded a double-digit jobless rate, namely, NCR at 14.4 percent and Region IV-A, also known as CALABARZON, at 13.4 percent.

However, Metro Manila, the region with the highest unemployment rate in the country, saw its labor force in April jumping to six million from 5.38 million in the previous year and from 5.75 million in the first month of 2021.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) estimated that 2.1 million jobs were lost when NCR Plus—Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and Bulacan—was placed under stricter quarantine controls between March and April.

Latest unemployment figure for Metro Manila was the second-highest on record, after only to July 2020’s 15.8 percent.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in areas outside NCR continued its general downward trend, declining from 8.7 percent in January to 7.9 percent in April, reflecting the gains from the reopening of the economy in the provinces.

The services sector continued to account for the largest share of employed Filipinos with 57.4 percent, followed by agriculture and the industry sectors with 24.4 percent and 18.2 percent of the working individuals, respectively.

In a joint statement released by the Duterte administration’s economic managers, the Cabinet officials said the increase in jobless Filipinos in April was “a temporary reversal of our first quarter employment gains.”

The joint statement from Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua also noted that April’s LFS showed the tight link between labor market outcomes and the level of quarantine restrictions.


For his part, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said that the latest unemployment rate is not unexpected with the heightened restrictions imposed during this period. However, Lopez said, the higher rate is deemed temporary as the economy is back in the process of gradual, calibrated and safe reopening.

Additionally, with the arrival of more vaccines this month, and the rollout of our vaccination for the 35 million A4 priority group or the economic frontliners, “We can expect significant acceleration of vaccine capacity towards the 500,000 jabs per day level. This will allow us to fast-track the vaccination rollout and achieve higher immunity and greater consumer and business confidence sooner than later. “

This, he said, will lead to higher consumption of our local goods and services, empower more businesses, and generate more employment opportunities for Filipinos.  Thus, DTI is one with the National Task Force against COVID-19 (NTF) in encouraging all Filipinos to get inoculated. “We firmly believe that the jab in the arm of the economic frontliners is a shot in the arm for economic recovery, that will bring back more jobs for our people,” he said.

DTI is also implementing initiatives to boost confidence for our establishments through the Safety Seal, as well as advocate for fully vaccinated senior citizens to be allowed out of their homes.

Serving as Chair of both the Task Group on Economic Recovery (TGER) and National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS), Lopez vowed to continue to work with the different agencies and the private sector in achieving a whole-of-society approach towards the improvement of our labor market and sustained economic stability.
“We are dedicated to continuously implement policies and programs indicated in the NERS 8-Point Employment Recovery Agenda, as well as reforms that would improve the business environment in the country,” he said.