Philippine unemployment hit 8.7 percent in April, the same as January’s unemployment rate, and much better than the record high of 17.6 percent in April 2020.
But in terms of total unemployed, April 2021 data showed there were 4.14 million unemployed Filipinos for the month. This was much lower than the 7.23 million unemployed a year ago, but nearly 200 thousand more compared to January.
National Statistician Undersecretary Dennis Mapa said the return to tighter quarantine conditions in April to address higher COVID-19 cases was a key factor.
“Ang nakikita natin ang stricter restriction, nagkaroon ito ng impact sa movement ng ating manggagawa. So nagkaroon ng pagtaas ng unemployment at underemployment," he said.
Underemployment, or individuals who are employed but want more or better work, also increased. The total hit 7.45 million in April 2021, from 6.59 million in January, and 6.4 million in April 2020.
Meanwhile the National Capital Region had the worst unemployment rate in April at 14.4 percent. NCR, along with Calabarzon and Central Luzon, all saw higher unemployment rates in April compared to January, as they are included in the NCR plus area which had stricter quarantines enforced during the month.
Mapa said more job hunters contributed to the higher unemployment rate in NCR.
"Labor Force numbers, NCR April 2021 labor force natin ay umabot ng 6.064M April 2021. Jan 2021, last quarter, ito ay nasa 5.75M. April 2020, one year ago, 5.385M. So may pagtaas ang number of individuals na nag participate sa NCR,” he said.
The PSA said in April 2021 the number of unemployed Filipinos in NCR increased quarter-on-quarter by around 370,000 to 875,000, while the number of underemployed increased by 375,000 to 804,000.
Month-on-month the industries with the biggest job losses were construction (805,000), agriculture and forestry (493,000), and wholesale and retail trade (456,000). Mapa said they don’t have data to determine whether the 805,000 lost jobs in construction were from private or government projects.
The month-on-month job losses in Wholesale and Retail trade of nearly half a million undid some of the strong gains in the sector’s employment.
Quarter-on-quarter the wholesale and retail sector, alongside repair for motor vehicles and motorcycles, created 1.21 million new jobs. Year-on-year the industry created 3.39 million new jobs. It was by far the biggest generator of work over the last year, benefitting from government efforts to reopen the economy.
Socioeconomic planning Secretary Karl Chua, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, and Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado released a joint statement on the April jobs data, saying employment should improve moving forward. They noted the worse jobs numbers were expected because of the return to tighter quarantine conditions, but they stressed there would be better returns moving forward.
“The recent imposition of the ECQ and MECQ was not wasted given the significant decline in COVID-19 cases in the NCR Plus area, where hospital bed capacity was sharply increased and the prevent, detect, isolate, treat, and recover (PDITR) strategy was further enforced. Given this progress, we are ready to take well-calibrated steps to achieve better health and job outcomes for the people,” the statement read.
The economic managers said the government’s three-pronged approach to reviving the economy would yield more jobs in the future. This approach includes further re-opening of the economy, the full implementation of P2.7 trillion in fiscal, monetary, and financial interventions, and the COVID-19 vaccination program.
“With 27.7 million vaccine doses arriving from May to July 2021, we are confident that we can bring more Filipinos safely to work, inoculate 70 million Filipinos or the entire adult population by the end of the year, and recover strongly in the next two years.”