Jobless Filipinos balloon to 7.3 million in April as unemployment soars in lockdown

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 05 2020 09:37 AM | Updated as of Jun 05 2020 04:59 PM

Commuters wait for a ride along Commonwealth Ave on June 1, 2020, the start of the general community quarantine in Metro Manila. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- (2ND UPDATE) The Philippines' unemployment rate jumped to a record 17.7 percent during the coronavirus lockdown, official data released Friday showed, as the government moved to resuscitate the economy and stop further job losses.

The jobless rate in April translates to a total 7.3 million unemployed Filipinos, National Statistician Claire Dennis Mapa said, adding it reflected the "effect of the economic shutdown."

The unemployment rate last topped 10 percent in January 2005, when it was recorded at 11.3 percent, according to Bloomberg data. The labor force participation rate, which covers those 15 years and older, likewise fell to a record 55.6 percent, the lowest since 1987, Mapa said.

"Unfortunately, this is going to get worse, given that this is for the quarter ending April and of course the lockdown lasted more than that," Nomura Securities senior economist for ASEAN Euben Paracuelles told ANC.

"I think there’s quite a bit of an urgent need to really push fiscal measures fairly quickly and in a sizable way," he said.

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Unemployment and underemployment rate. Data: Philippine Statistics Authority. Processed by: ABS-CBN Data Analytics​

Implementation of various measures to fight the pandemic is a challenge for government, said BDO Unibank chief investment strategist Jonas Ravelas.

"One of the things we’ve done as a country is that the government was able to do its rapid response they were able to do the Bayanihan. Right now the challenge of trying to deploy these things is a herculean task," Ravelas said.

Inflation eased to 2.1 percent in May from 2.2 percent in the previous month, the PSA also said on Friday. It was the lowest in 6 months, according to ABS-CBN Data Analytics.

BUILDING RESILIENCE

Malacañang said it was "unsurprised" with the report as it promised Filipinos that a "resiliency program" was in the works.

"This is an obvious effect of the economic shutdown when the entire Luzon area was in an enhanced community quarantine where most businesses were closed and many people were out of work and stayed at home," Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.

"A resiliency program, such as but not limited to active labor market programs, job matching and skills upgrading, is likewise being prepared to help insulate our people from future similar crises," he added.

The Department of Labor and Employment said Thursday it was seeking P20 billion to help small and medium employers cover 25 to 50 percent of their payroll costs.

The country's biggest business groups also urged lawmakers to speed up deliberations on a P1.3 trillion stimulus and a bill that will slash the corporate income tax rate to 25 percent from 30 percent.

The nearly 80-day quarantine shut the capital region that is home to a tenth of the country's 100 million people and accounts for a third of gross domestic product. The economy shrank in the first quarter, the first in 22 years and some 2.6 million jobs were temporarily or permanently lost, officials said earlier.

Casino resort operator Okada Manila said it would cut 1,000 jobs while motel chain Victoria Court said it would shut some branches.