The Philippines: Jobless rate eases in Apr 22

  • The unemployment rate in Apr 22 slowed to its lowest since the start of the pandemic as the size of the workforce shrank amid the disruptions caused by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
  • Preliminary results of the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) Apr 22 round of the Labor Force Survey (LFS) on 10 Jun 22 showed the unemployment rate slowed slightly to 5.7% from 5.8% in Mar 22. This was also slower than the 8.7% jobless rate on Apr 21.
  • It was the lowest unemployment rate since before the pandemic or the 5.3% in Jan 20.
  • The quality of jobs likewise improved as underemployment rate slowed to 14% in Apr 22 from 15.8% in Mar 22 and 17.2% in Apr 21.
  • The underemployment rate matched Feb 22’s share and the lowest since 12.3% in May 21.
  • However, the size of the labor force declined m/m by 1.457 million to 48.393 million in Apr 22. Compared to Apr 21, the size of workforce went up by 986,600 from 47.407 million.
  • This translated to labor force participation rate (LFPR) — the share of labor force to the total population 15 years old and over — of 63.4% in Apr 22, decreasing from 65.4% in Mar 22, but higher than the 63.2% in Apr 21.
  • It was the lowest LFPR in three months or since 60.5% in Jan 22.
  • The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said fewer Filipinos participated in the labor force in April due to supply chain disruptions caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict and seasonal factors in agriculture.
  • “Of the 1.3 million net employment loss, 1.1 million were from agriculture while 0.5 million were from services. This was slightly tempered by 0.3 million employment generated in the industry sector,” the NEDA said in a statement.
  • Services sector remained the largest employer in Apr 22 with 58% share. Agriculture and industry accounted for 23.6% and 18.4%, respectively.
  • “Despite external risks, overall employment remains at 3.1 million above the pre-pandemic level as around 80% of the economy has been placed under alert level 1,” the NEDA said.
  • University of Asia and the Pacific Senior Economist Cid L. Terosa said the “vibrant” economic landscape this Apr 22 due to ease in restrictions and election-related activities improved the labor force in Apr 22.
  • Mr. Terosa said the slight improvement in the employment rate indicates that the employment situation is “getting better” post-pandemic.
  • “The employment rate would have recorded greater m/m increase if inflation remained within the 2-4% range,” Mr. Terosa said.
  • China Banking Corp. Chief Economist Domini S. Velasquez said election and harvest season in agriculture sector contributed to better employment figures in Apr 22.
  • “However, it is concerning that many of the jobs generated since the start of 2022 are in the agriculture sector, which is very vulnerable to any weather disturbances,” Ms. Velasquez said in an e-mail.
  • “Important to watch out for in terms of job quality is if the share of wage and salary workers segment is increasing. If so, this will usually imply permanent employment and more secure income for employees.”
  • Analysts are waiting for the incoming administration’s detailed plans in addressing current issues to see how this would affect the employment sector.
  • Federation of Free Workers President Atty. Sonny Matula said full-time employment and sufficient income are still the key to reducing unemployment rate.
  • “Three general measures are needed to be carried out by the new administration for this purpose: (1) faster economic growth based on increased investments in key infrastructure and by the private sector; (2) slower inflation; and (3) improved fiscal discipline based on good governance principles,” he said in a Viber message.
  • Mr. Terosa said that the Marcos administration “will definitely have its hands full” in employment creation as the administration is coming in post-pandemic.
  • Ms. Velasquez said President-elect Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s commitment to focus on jobs targeting micro, small, and medium enterprise’s’ recovery and by continuing Duterte administration’s infrastructure program “bodes well” for the labor market.
  • “However, recent minimum wage increases and higher cost of production due to oil prices might squeeze businesses’ working capital and might curtail their expansion plans and adding more workers,” she said.
  • “Agriculture must remain a priority sector for development and for the purpose of food security. Solid support for farmers, fisherfolks and forestry workers are necessary. This calls for review of existing laws and programs in agriculture to align this to higher and faster economic growth,” Mr. Matula said.
  • The PSA started reporting monthly jobs data in 2021. Prior to that, the agency published employment figures on a quarterly basis.

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