Number of unemployed Filipinos falls to 3.44M in March — PSA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 6) — More Filipinos were able to find work in March, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority revealed.

National Statistician Dennis Mapa announced on Thursday an unemployment rate of 7.1% for the month, translating to 3.44 million Filipinos out of work. This is lower than the 4.19 million jobless in February, equivalent to an 8.8% unemployment rate.

March’s figure is the lowest percentage recorded since the all-time high of 17.7% in April 2020, with the tightest lockdown measures declared by government then forcing many businesses to close shop.

Mapa noted that the latest monthly survey involved 11,058 households and covered March 8 to 27, which was before the government imposed the strictest enhanced community quarantine classification in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite and Laguna — otherwise known as NCR Plus — in a bid to curb rising COVID-19 infections.

On the flipside, 45.33 million individuals had jobs in March, higher than the 43.15 million the month prior. The PSA reported an employment rate of 92.9%, up from the 91.2% in February -- the highest since the 82.4% logged in April last year.

The agency also tallied 7.34 million underemployed Filipinos — or those wanting longer hours or better job opportunities — in March, corresponding to a 16.2% underemployment rate. This is likewise an improvement from February’s 7.85 million or an 18.2% rate.

The national labor force stood at 48.77 million in March, Mapa said, a leap from the 47.34 million in February. The latest figure corresponds to a 65% labor force participation rate, up from the 63.5% posted in the previous month. He attributed this to more people aged 15-24 and 65 and up finding job opportunities during the period with more businesses declaring job openings then.

The services sector once again took the biggest chunk of total employment during the month at 56% or 25.4 million workers, down from the 58.4% or 25.2 million count in February. Agriculture comprised 24.6% or 11.13 million of overall employment while the industry sector contributed 19.4% or 8.8 million to the March total, both sectors logging higher month-on-month figures.

Construction led the major industries with the largest month-on-month rise in employment, seeing its tally increase from 4.10 million to 4.94 million in March. Education saw the biggest drop in employment at 248,000, bringing the industry’s number of workers to 1.32 million.

Meanwhile, people worked longer hours on a weekly basis with a higher average of 39.7 hours — nearer than the usual 40 hours. This is compared to the 38.9 mean recorded in February.

While economic managers welcomed the latest improvement as shown in March’s labor force survey results, they noted a possible “temporary reversal of these employment gains” next month.

“However, the impact is expected to be less severe compared to April 2020 given our more risk-managed approach to the present quarantines,” they said in a statement.

The economic team cited how most sectors have been allowed to operate subject to the IATF’s guidelines unlike last year’s ECQ and modified ECQ and the implementation of a ₱23 billion financial assistance to households in the NCR Plus bubble.

They also noted efforts to lower tariff rates and increase minimum access volume for pork imports to help address meat shortage and curb rising inflation for food products, along with the intensified implementation of the Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat and Recover (PDITR) strategy to curb the spread of COVID-19.

RCBC chief economist Michael Ricafort noted the unemployment rate may still improve in the latter part of the year after an “expected increase starting April” with the decrease in new infections, higher public spending especially on infrastructure, and additional economic stimulus.

Reforms such as the CREATE law could also attract more foreign investors and create new jobs with lower corporate income tax rates and more certainty for incentives, he noted.

“Recent accommodative monetary policy measures that lowered borrowing costs/financing costs to near record lows recently would help spur greater demand for loans that, in turn, generate more investments, jobs/employment, and other business/economic opportunities,” said Ricafort.