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The unemployment rate falls to the lowest level in two months



Situation of the Philippine Labor Force

THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE fell to a two-month low of 3.5% in February even as more Filipinos joined the labor force, the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA) said Thursday.

Preliminary data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) shows that the unemployment rate in February fell from 4.5% in January and 4.8% in February 2023.

The unemployment rate in February was the lowest since 3.1% in December last year.

This translated to 1.8 million unemployed Filipinos in February, down 355,000 from 2.15 million in January and 679,000 from 2.47 million in February 2023.

So far, the unemployment rate has fallen to 4% from 4.8% in the same period last year.

PSA Undersecretary and National Statistician Claire Dennis S. Mapa said the opening of classes in February helped boost employment, especially in retail.

“The most important source of employment gains [in February] was wholesale and retail, but more on retail due to the opening of classes. That’s a big contributor. Another source is agriculture. We had employment because of the harvest season,” he said at the news conference in mixed English and Filipino.

In February, labor participation rose to 96.5% from 95.5% in January and 95.2% in February last year.

This equated to 48.95 million working Filipinos, up from 45.94 million in January and 48.8 million in February 2023.

During the first two months of the year, the employment rate averaged 96%, compared to the 95.2% recorded in the same period a year ago.

Job quality improved in February as the unemployment rate fell to 12.4% from 13.9% in January. This was also down from 12.9% a year ago, and the lowest in two months or since 11.9% in December 2023.

The number of underemployed Filipinos – working people who want more hours of work or an additional job – fell by 318,000 month on month to 6.08 million in February.

On an annual basis, the number of underemployed Filipinos fell by 210,000 from 6.29 million in February last year.

So far, unemployment has fallen to 13.2% from 13.5% in the same period last year.

The country’s labor force reached 50.75 million in February, up 2.65 million from 48.09 million in January.

On an annual basis, the labor force fell by 526,000, compared to 51.27 million in February last year.

This translated into a labor force participation rate (LFPR) of 64.8%, up from 61.1% in January but down from 66.6% in February last year.

The average LFPR from January to February was 63%, down from 65.5% last year.

The average Filipino worker worked 40.1 hours per week in February, up from 42.1 hours the month before and up from 39.5 hours in February 2023.

Robert Dan J. Roces, chief economist at Security Bank Corp., attributed the declining unemployment to the “expanding economy, which has created more jobs.”

“There could also be a shift to jobs with more guaranteed hours or full-time positions, which would lead to a decrease in underemployment (currently 12.4%),” he said in an email.

PSA data shows that the wholesale and retail sector gained the most jobs on a monthly basis in February, after increasing by 1.61 million, bringing the number of employees to 10.66 million.

There was a month-on-month increase in the number of workers in agriculture and forestry by 1.03 million to 9.36 million, while the number of workers in the accommodation and food sector increased by 325,000 to 2.45 million.

On the other hand, the largest monthly job losses were observed in fisheries and aquaculture (decrease from 402,000 to 1.09 million); followed by information and communication (decrease from 137,000 to 370,000); and professional, scientificFIC and technical activities (decrease from 82,000 to 405,000).

“However, it is important to make a caveat. Although the overall figure was lower, year-on-year growth fell, especially in sectors such as agriculture and retailFdominated by the construction and hotel and accommodation sectors,” said Mr Roces.

On an annual basis, construction grew the most with 470,000 employees, to 4.77 million in February. This was followed by transport and storage (from 444,000 to 3.85 million) and administrative and support services activities (from 344,000 to 2.52 million).

“The construction sector is likely to continue to be supported by the government’s infrastructure programme. On the other hand, demand prospects for private construction will depend on the coming yearsFand interest rates fall. A major risk would be the possible emergence of La NiNone or above average rainfall this year, as this would disrupt construction activities,” said economists at China Banking Corp. (China Bank) in a note.

However, agriculture and forestry recorded the largest annual job losses that month, after shedding 834,000 workers to 9.36 million. It was followed by fisheries and aquaculture (from 490,000 to 1.09 million) and public administration and defense (from 418,000 to 2.68 million).

“Adverse weather conditions continue to cloud the outlook for the (agricultural and… Ffishing) sectors, with the impact of El NiNo is expected to stick around until May and La NiNa potential development this year,” said economists at the China Bank.

Despite the improvement in employment data, Progresibong Manggagawa Secretary General Josua T. Mata’s Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa said a large portion of the jobs generated are in the informal economy.

“This is where you Find a huge decent work theFicit because most workers do not have social protection,” Mr Mata said in a Viber message.

The employment share of wage workers fell from 67.1% in January to 62.9% in February, while self-employed people without paid workers rose to 27.2% from 25.7% the month before.

Looking ahead, economists at the China Bank say the labor market is expected to continue its robust performance, although inFlationary pressures such as high oil prices and possible wage increases could weaken demand for labor.

“Looking ahead, the future trend of unemployment and underemployment will depend on the economy’s ability to create more jobs and keep unemployment low amid high unemployment.Fand the interest rate environment,” said Mr Roces. — Karis Kasarinlan Paolo D. Mendoza