Unemployed Filipinos reach 4.2M in February

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THE number of unemployed Filipinos went up by 234,000 in February 2021, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

Based on the Labor Force Survey, a total of 4.2 million were out of jobs in February, higher than the four million recorded in January this year. This translates to an unemployment rate of 8.8 percent, from 8.7 percent in January 2021 and October 2020.

“The results of the latest LFS show continued improvements in the economy. Although the unemployment rate marginally increased... The gradual reopening of the economy allowed more people to re-join the labor force,” the joint statement of the Duterte administration’s economic managers reads.

The PSA said the highest unemployment was registered at 17.6 percent in April 2020.

According to Steven Yu, president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), the country will continue to see job losses until a good number of the population gets vaccinated.

“The unemployment rate is expected to continue to edge higher as our economy suffers from rising Covid-19 cases, especially in the National Capital Region Plus where the hospitals are overwhelmed, and enhanced community quarantine was re-imposed for the Holy Week. As the world grapples with the new variants of coronavirus, a temporary setback will ensue for a few months before it reverts back to its growth trajectory by October, when the vaccine rollout will have covered at least 20 percent of the population,” said Yu.

Some member-companies of MCCI are retiring older employees while some are hiring new ones, but Yu said: “It’s still a negative employment rate for now. We will see staggered improvements in hiring by October.”

“Increased vaccine rollout will seal our fate to recovery and build back our scarred economy. Achieving the pre-pandemic levels will be in the second quarter of 2022,” he said.

The labor force participation rate or the proportion of the working age population that is either working or actively looking for work increased from 60.5 percent in January 2021 to 63.5 percent in February 2021. As a result, some 1.9 million jobs were restored, translating to an overall employment level of 43.2 million in February 2021. This means the country surpassed its pre-pandemic employment level of 42.6 million in January 2020.

Underemployment

Meanwhile, the underemployment rate increased from 16 percent to 18.2 percent in the same period. This indicates that income is limited due to quarantine restrictions.

By industry group, the services sector remained dominant with 58.4 percent share of the total employed persons in February 2021. This was followed by the agriculture sector with a 23.9 percent share, and the industry sector, which accounted for the smallest share of 17.7 percent.

The top five sub-sectors with the highest gain in employment from January 2021 to February 2021 were as follows:

1. Activities for extraterritorial organizations and bodies (51.8 percent),

2. Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (24.1 percent),

3. Human health and social work activities (12.7 percent),

4. Other service activities (11.9 percent), and

5. Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (11.5 percent).

On the other hand, electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply, and mining and quarrying registered a decline in employment by 25.5 percent, and 18.9 percent, respectively from January 2021 to February 2021.

Joint statement

“Over the past year, employment figures showed the sensitivity of the labor market to the level of community quarantines that were imposed to contain the spread of Covid-19,” the economic team said.

“Around 8.7 million jobs were lost when we imposed the strictest quarantine from March to May 2020. As we carefully relaxed our restrictions, more jobs were gradually restored and the total number of jobs created since April last year at 9.3 million led to employment exceeding pre-Covid levels in February 2021,” it added.

While fears of another round of job losses might take place following the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila and the adjacent provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, collectively called the “NCR Plus” bubble, from March 24 to April 4, the economic team said “the decision was arrived at after a careful analysis of the cost and benefit of the week-long ECQ on the people.”

“We assure the Filipino people that the Duterte administration will not squander this opportunity to slow down the spread of the virus and recalibrate our Covid-19 response strategies. We will continue to monitor closely and assess the health and economic data as they come in order for us to deliver timely interventions and provide better opportunities for the people, especially the poor, amid this prolonged health crisis,” the team said. (KOC)