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PHL unemployment rate at two-month high



Situation of the Philippine Labor Force

By means of Karis Kasarinlan Paolo D. Mendoza

THE PHILIPPINE unemployment rate rose to a two-month high in MarchFAccording to the local statistics office, El Niño-induced droughts limited economic production.

The national unemployment rate rose to 3.9%, equivalent to two million unemployed Filipinos, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said in a report. In February the rate was 3.5%, or 1.8 million unemployed, and 4.7%, or 2.42 million a year earlier.

The unemployment rate averaged 4% last quarter, compared to 4.8% a year earlier.

PSA Undersecretary and National Statistician Claire Dennis S. Mapa blamed lower agricultural production for increased unemployment.

“Both the agricultural and fishing sectors were hit hard in terms of employment,” he told a news briefing in mixed English and Filipino. As a result, the sector has had to lay off workers.

Inflation, which rose to 3.8% for the third month in a row in April, also limited productionFjobs, Cid L. Terosa, a senior economist at the University of Asia and the Pacific, said in an email.

“The high labor participation and seasonal eFfects related to the hiring practices of Firms in the FThe first quarter put upward pressure on unemployment,” he added.

Job quality improved in March as the unemployment rate fell to 11% from 12.4% a month earlier and from 11.2% a year ago. It was the lowest unemployment rate since September 2023.

The number of underemployed Filipinos – those who want longer working hours or an extra job – fell by 686,000 from February to 5.39 million. The number of underemployed Filipinos fell by 51,000 from a year earlier.

The underemployment rate fell to 12.4% last quarter, compared to 12.7% a year ago.

According to the PSA, labor participation fell to 96.1% in March from 96.5% in February. A year earlier the percentage was 95.3%.

The number of Filipinos with jobs rose by 202,000 month on month to 49.15 million in March, compared to 48.58 million a year earlier.

The employment rate rose to 96% in the Ffirst quarter compared to 95.2% a year ago.

The statistics agency noted that month after month, the country’s labor force – made up of people who are employed and unemployed but looking for work, and Fnew job seekers – rose by 407,000 to 51.15 million in March.

It said that in March 2023, 51 million people were in the labor force.

This translated into a labor force participation rate of 65.3%, compared to 64.8% a month earlier and 66% a year ago.

The average Filipino worker worked 40.7 hours per week.

Carlos Miguel S. Oñate, Legislative Trade Union Congress of the PhilippinesffIcer said the increase in participation rate showed that more Filipinos were looking for jobs.

He added that labor rights must be upheld through upskilling and creating new employment opportunities, especially for fresh graduates.

In a statement, Arsenio M. Balisacan, secretary of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), said the government will continue to prioritize the creation of quality and well-paying jobs.

“We will focus on attracting job-generating private sector investments and scaling up social and physical infrastructure to improve the employment prospects of our people to achieve this goal,” he said. “These will be accompanied by retraining and upskilling programs to increase employability.”

The largest monthly job losses in March were in agriculture and forestry, where the number of workers fell from 318,000 to 9.04 million. It was followed by transportation and warehousing, which fell by 292,000 workers to 3.56 million, and by construction, where the number of workers fell by 214,000 to 4.55 million.

Month-on-month job growth was recorded in the public administration and defense sectors, which increased by 606,000 to 3.29 million, in the manufacturing sector, which added 351,000 jobs to 4.02 million, and in the information and communications sector, which increased by 159,000 to 529,000.

Year on year, agriculture and forestry lost the most workers (881,000), followed by fishing and aquaculture, which fell by 449,000 to 1.03 million, and accommodation and food services activities, which fell by 118,000 to 2.56 million.

On the other hand, wholesale and retail trade posted the largest annual job gains in March after hiring an additional 963,000 workers to 10.75 million. The manufacturing sector added 553,000 workers to 4.02 million, while public administration and defense increased by 229,000.

“The unemployment rate will remain under further pressure in April due to the crisisFlation,” said Mr Terosa.

He cited the need to monitor proposals for a statutory wage increase, which he said could lead to bleak job prospects.