MANILA (2ND UPDATE) — The Philippines' unemployment rate went down in October to pre-pandemic levels but underemployment also climbed during the month, the state statistics bureau said on Wednesday.
The unemployment rate eased to 4.5 percent in October from 5.2 percent in July, the Philippine Statistics Authority said in a briefing. This means that around 2.24 million Filipino workers were jobless for the month, which was an improvement from the 2.6 million unemployed in July.
October's jobless rate was also lower than the 7.4 percent recorded in the same month in 2021, which translated to 3.5 million unemployed.
The top sectors with the biggest decline in the number of employed workers from July to October were:
- Agriculture and forestry;
- Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles
- Public administration and defense; compulsory social security
- Arts, entertainment, and recreation
- Real estate activities
Meanwhile, the number of underemployed workers, or those looking for additional jobs or more work hours, rose to 6.67 million in October from 6.54 million in July. This translated into an underemplyment rate of 14.2 percent, up from 13.8 percent in July, the PSA said.
Around 47.11 million workers were employed in October, translating into an employment rate of 95.5 percent. This was higher than the 94.8 percent see in July, the actual number of employed workers was lower by 285,000, as working age Filipinos left the workforce.
The drop in unemployment was also accompanied by a drop in labor force participation as 646 thousand Filipinos exited the workforce. The PSA said many working age Filipinos go back to school around this time, which is the start of the school year.
October’s employment rate was also an improvement over last year’s 92.6 percent rate, or 43.82 million employed workers.
"The estimated employment rate this October 2022 was the highest rate recorded since January 2020 and registered to have bounced back to the pre-pandemic levels," the PSA said.
From January to October, unemployment averaged 5.6 percent, near the pre-pandemic 2019 figure of 5.1 percent, National Statistician Dennis Mapa said.
By sector, the following registered the highest increases in jobs from July to October:
- Transportation and storage
- Administrative and support service activities
Meanwhile, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the improvement in employment numbers is a sign that the lowering of mobility restrictions is working to reinvigorate the economy.
"Our move to finally open face-to-face classes at full capacity has paved the way for us to immediately address the learning losses from the pandemic—this is a precursor to a workforce that demonstrates competence and high productivity. Also, with children back in school, parents-at-home—especially mothers—are also able to pursue more income opportunities," Balisacan said.
However, he also noted that there is still a need to create better or higher-paying opportunities for Filipinos.
"While the employment numbers have improved, we recognize that we need to expand efforts towards creating more and high quality employment by improving workforce employability. We need to do this if we really want to pursue economic transformation.”
Several workers in transport interviewed by ABS-CBN noted that while there has been an increase in fellow drivers and public utility vehicles plying the streets, income levels have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels, and elevated inflation has made it hard for them to make ends meet.
Balisacan again noted that this will be considered in the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 expected to be presented to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr this month.
With a report from Warren de Guzman, ABS-CBN News