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Diokno: Record-high unemployment rate in April 'grossly exaggerated'

The record-high unemployment rate reported in April was "grossly exaggerated" and does not reflect the true state of the Philippine economy, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) governor said over the weekend.

In a text message, BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno said the 7.3 million unemployed Filipinos in April were mostly due to the coronavirus disease and did not necessarily reflect the economic state of the country.

"The increase in unemployment in April does not reflect the true state of the economy and the jobs market. It was more a result of the policy decision to save lives in response to the COVID -19 pandemic," he told reporters.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported last week that unemployment rate was at 17.7% in April, equivalent to an increase of 5 million from 2.3 million in April 2019.

On the other hand, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) earlier said up to 10 million jobs could be lost due to the COVID pandemic.

"Note that the April 2020 Labor Force Survey (LFS) was conducted from 20 April to 16 May, at the height of the ECQ. A big part of the economy was shuttered; the consequent rise in joblessness was State-induced," said Diokno.

Metro Manila, along with several high-risk areas, was under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from March 17 to May 15, followed by a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until May 31.

"While the impact of the pandemic on the economy is broad-based, it is uneven across industries. The loss of jobs follow the same pattern," said Diokno.

Most of the jobs lost during the period were in the services sector (wholesale and retail, transportation and storage, accommodation and food) and the industry sector (construction and manufacturing). Meanwhile, the agriculture sector was allowed to function under the ECQ.

Looking ahead, Diokno said that the figures are expected to improve in the next LFS survey which will be conducted from July 20 to August 15, and will be reported in August 2020.

"Moving forward, as the containment measures are relaxed nationwide, job recovery is expected. But as job loss was uneven during the lockdown, so will job creation in the transition," he said.

Among industries Diokno said are expected to bounce back are construction and manufacturing, while a gradual resumption is seen in industries such as air travel, hotels, and tourism, which may take some time to restart due to risk aversion of consumers.

"Some might even take much longer such as theaters, ball games, conventions, and others. Some jobs might be permanently lost while new ones emerge," he said.

"On the part of the BSP, while it cannot directly ease the rise in unemployment, it recognized that the timely, proactive, and decisive monetary actions it deployed at the onset of the pandemic were strategic moves to contain the volatilities and ensure confidence in the financial market, thereby averting further damage to the economy," he added. —LBG, GMA News