More jobless, underemployed in February amid biz reopening

More Filipinos were unemployed in February at 3.13 million compared to the previous month even as the unemployment rate stayed steady at 6.4 percent, the Labor Force Survey released Thursday by the Philippine Statistics Authority showed.

STILL LOOKING. Applicants line up along Gen. Luna Street in Intramuros, Manila for possible employment abroad during a job fair spearheaded by a placement agency on Thursday, April 7, 2022. Danny Pata

National Statistician Dennis Mapa said in a briefing that the number of jobless Filipinos in February was higher than the 2.93 million posted in January 2022.

In terms of magnitude, PSA said in a statement this translated to 3.13 million unemployed individuals 15 years old and over.

But with more Filipinos looking for work this year as COVID-19 protocols were steadily lifted, February’s unemployment rate was lower than the 8.8 percent or 4.19 million jobless Filipinos in the same comparable period last year, the state numbers agency said.

PSA data showed the number of employed persons rose by 2.33 million—from 43.15 million in February 2021 to 45.48 million in the same month this year.

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Underemployment, on the other hand, also eased to 14 percent this February, compared to 14.9 percent in January and 18.2 percent in the same period last year.

February’s underemployment is equivalent to 6.38 million workers, the data showed.

Underemployed persons are persons who expressed the desire to have additional hours of work in their present job, or to have an additional job or to have a new job with longer hours of work.

The employment rate for February also stayed at 93.6 percent with 45.48 million Filipinos, compared to 43.02 million in the previous month. It was also higher than the 91.2 percent reported for the same period last year.

The Labor Force Participation rate also rose to 63.8 percent in February from 60.5 percent the previous month.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said increased mobility and easing of restrictions led to a better employment situation this February.

“The labor force participation rate increased from 60.5 percent in January to 63.8 percent in February, which led to a net employment creation of 2.5 million over the same period. This brings the country’s employment to 2.9 million above the pre-pandemic level,” Chua said.

He said the quality of jobs also improved, as seen in the decline in the underemployment rate from 14.9 percent to 14.0 percent.

“As we contained the spread of the Omicron variant and ramped up the vaccination program, we were able to revert to alert level 2 in the National Capital Region and other economic centers starting February 2022,” Chua said.

“This allowed more Filipinos to rejoin the labor force. We aim to shift the entire country to alert level 1 to enable even more Filipinos to find work,” he added.

As of April 1, 2022, 79 percent of the economy has been placed under COVID-19 Alert Level 1.

However, the National Economic and Development Authority, which Chua heads, also warned the country cannot reap the full benefits of shifting to Alert Level 1 without resuming face-to-face classes.

“To maximize the shift to Alert Level 1, we reiterate the need for the full and urgent resumption of face-to-face classes. This will allow one-fourth of the parents who stay at home supporting their children during online classes to work. This is crucial in light of the temporary inflationary pressures we are experiencing due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict,” he said.

Chua said the full resumption of face-to-face classes is included in the 10-point policy agenda proposed by the Economic Development Cluster and adopted by President Rodrigo Duterte through his issuance of Executive Order No. 166.

The agenda includes 10 key strategies to accelerate and sustain the country’s economic recovery and strengthen the domestic economy against external shocks, the NEDA chief said.

Michael Ricafort, chief economist of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., said any measures to further re-open the economy could fundamentally lead to higher production, capacity, and sales and income for many businesses and industries.

He said it would also “create more jobs, greater business/economic activities, and improvements in the government’s fiscal position with more tax collections and reduced government spending on financial assistance with less risks of lockdowns…”

Chua said more Filipinos joined the labor force when restrictions in the National Capital Region and other key economic centers eased to Alert Level 1.

Unemployment ballooned when the pandemic started in early 2020 due to lockdowns imposed to stem the spread of the disease.

Employed persons worked an average of 40.8 hours per week in February 2022, the PSA added, higher than the reported 38.9 hours in February 2021 but lower than the recorded 41.8 hours in January 2022.

Visible underemployment rate or the proportion of underemployed persons working less than 40 hours in a week was reported at 9.2 percent in February 2022, higher than the reported 8.9 percent in January 2022 but lower than the 12.5 percent reported in February 2021.

On the other hand, the invisible underemployment rate—or the proportion of underemployed persons working at least 40 hours in a week —was placed at 4.8 percent in February 2022.

This was lower than the estimated invisible underemployment rate in February 2021 (5.7 percent) and in January 2022 (5.9 percent).

By broad industry group, the services sector continued to lead all sectors having the largest share of employed persons with 58.2 percent.

The share of employed persons in agriculture and industry sectors accounted for 23.9 percent and 17.9 percent, respectively.

Youth labor force participation rate (LFPR) in February 2022 was estimated at 35.9 percent out of the 20.15 million youth population who are 15-24 years old.

Underemployed youth was reported at 838,000 of the 6.20 million youth who were reported employed, while the total number of unemployed youths was placed at 1.03 million.

Youth employment rate was reported at 85.7 percent, higher than the reported employment rate in February 2021 (81.5 percent) but lower than the recorded employment rate in January 2022 (86.2 percent).

Employed youth in February 2022 worked on an average of 38.0 hours per week, higher than the average 37.2 hours a week reported in the same month of 2021.

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