By Siegfrid Alegado and Claire Jiao
Philippine economic officials want to continue easing movement restrictions as the country’s slow reopening helped reduce joblessness from last quarter’s record level.
The country’s unemployment rate eased to 10% in July, down from 17.7% in April, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported Thursday. While the number of people without work fell to 4.6 million in July from 7.3 million in April, it was still nearly double the 2.4 million a year earlier.
Despite a surge in COVID-19 infections that has made the Philippine outbreak the worst in East Asia, the government has started loosening lockdown restrictions after economic growth plunged by a record in the second quarter.
“To bounce back from this crisis we will need to open the economy even more,” Acting Economic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua told reporters. Easing lockdown measures and allowing more public transport to operate can create as much as 2.8 million jobs and lower unemployment to 6%-8% by next year, he said.
The benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange Index rose by as much as 0.5% to 5,768.20 after the jobs report, on course to break a five-day slump.
The latest jobs data sends “mixed signals,” as unemployment in “very important” economic centers remains elevated, said Dennis Mapa, the country’s chief statistician.
The jobless rate in the capital region, which accounts for more than one-third of the economy, rose to 15.8% in July from April’s 12.3%, statistics agency data showed. The ratio improved in 16 other regions.
It may take until 2022 for the jobless rate to decline to 4%-5%, assuming a vaccine is available by mid-2021, Chua said.
“Given the sustained rise in new infections and partial lockdown measures in place, unemployment figures will likely remain elevated well into next year,” said Nicholas Mapa, senior economist at ING Groep NV in Manila.
Other key points from Thursday’s data:
More than 83,000 establishments remained temporarily shut as of end August, affecting 2 million workers, while more than 9,000 firms employing about 180,000 people had permanently closed because of the pandemic, according to the labor department
The livelihoods of about 500,000 overseas Filipino workers have been affected by pandemic, with the figure set to rise to 700,000 by year’s end
© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.