The Philippines: Renewed lockdowns wipe out gains as jobless rate rises in Apr 21

  • A brief return to strict lockdowns to arrest an unexpected Covid-19 flare-up erased some gains in restoring jobs destroyed by the pandemic, as more Filipinos were unemployed in Apr 21.
  • There were 4.14 million Filipinos who were either jobless or out of business in Apr 21, up from 3.44 million people in Mar 21, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on 8 Jun 21. That translated to a jobless rate of 8.7%, rising from 7.1% in the preceding month.
  • The grim figure stalled a fragile recovery in the labor market seen in recent months after mobility curbs were retightened in Metro Manila and four nearby areas from late Mar 21 to mid-Apr 21 to contain a new surge of infections. In the capital, the jobless rate soared to 14.4% in Apr 21, equivalent to 875,000 unemployed people, from 8.8% in Jan 21, data showed.
  • It was a “temporary reversal” of gains, economic officials said, adding that the local job market is still better off now compared to 2020 when lockdowns were at their tightest. They said the government managed to balance health and the economy this time.
  • “For instance, instead of shutting down three-fourths of the economy, we allowed public transportation and more sectors to operate, but still subject to the minimum health standards,” economic officials headed by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said in a joint statement.
  • But Leonardo Lanzona Jr., labor economist at Ateneo de Manila University, disagreed, arguing that the government seemed to have not learned its lessons from past lockdowns.
  • Not only people are losing their jobs, the quality of work available continued to deteriorate as more Filipinos looked for additional jobs to augment their income. PSA data showed the underemployment rate surged to 17.2% Apr 21 from 16.2% in Mar 21. With inflation up, this may indicate Filipinos are barely sustaining amid hard times.
  • At the same time, data showed many Filipinos have entirely stopped job hunting either because of getting discouraged or lack of job opportunities. The labor force participation rate, representing people aged 15 years and above who are actively looking for work, shrank to 63.2% in Apr 21 from 65% in Mar 21.
  • By sectors, the construction industry suffered the biggest drop in employment m/m, with 805,000 workers losing their job in Apr 21. The contraction poses a big problem for the Duterte administration’s recovery plan, which banks on big-ticket infrastructure projects to generate jobs and recharge the economy.
  • That said, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reiterated that it sees economic recovery, and more Filipinos going back to work, following the rollout of vaccines for essential workers.

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