The number of jobless Filipinos declined in March this year, bringing the unemployment rate down to its lowest level since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Friday.
At a virtual press briefing, PSA chief and National Statistician Claire Dennis Mapa said the number of unemployed adults aged 15 and above in March stood at 2.87 million, reflecting an unemployment rate of 5.8%.
March’s unemployment rate is the lowest since the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in April 2020, when the all-time high unemployment rate of 17.6% or 7.3 million jobless was recorded.
This is lower than the 3.13 million jobless adults recorded in February, reflecting an unemployment rate of 6.4%.
In a statement, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) attributed the lower joblessness rate to the shifting to Alert Level 1 of most of the country in March.
Under Alert Level 1, businesses are allowed to operate at 100% capacity with no age restrictions and physical barriers.
“The March labor force survey results reflect the gains from moving around 70% of the economy to Alert Level 1. As we continue to manage the risks, we reiterate our recommendation to shift the entire country to alert level 1 to generate more employment and strengthen the domestic economy against external shocks,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua.
In a separate statement, acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar said results of the latest Labor Force Survey “proves how effective our calibrated strategy of shifting to Alert Level System to further reopen the economy – where more businesses are operating and more Filipinos are able to go to work – while ramping our COVID-19 vaccination drive.”
“We are confident to see a further improvement in our employment situation as the government has concrete plans to sustain our economic rebound,” Andanar said.
For his part, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the latest labor force survey “indicates an accelerated momentum of recovery of the labor market.”
“These figures encourage us to do more within our remaining days in office and continue our efforts as we transition to a new administration,” Bello said in a statement.
“With the pandemic situation now under control, we take this as an advantage to push forward and actively support initiatives towards sustained improvement and recovery of our labor market,” the Labor chief said.
Labor force participation
More Filipinos also joined the labor force amid the increased mobility and the lower alert level, according to the NEDA.
Mapa reported that the country’s labor force participation rate — the percentage of individuals who are actively looking for work in the adult population — continued its uptrend to 65.4%, also the highest rate since the start of the pandemic, from 63.8% in February.
In terms of magnitude, the number of labor force participants stood at 49.85 million in March from 48.61 million in February.
“Together, these translated to significant employment creation of 1.5 million between February and March. This brings the net employment to 4.4 million above the pre-pandemic level,” according to the NEDA.
As the number of jobless people declined, the number of employed persons increased to 46.98 million in March from 45.48 million in February.
This translates to an employment rate of 94.2%, the highest since the peak of the pandemic in April 2020, from 93.6% in February.
However, the underemployment rate increased from 14% to 15.8% as more employed workers expressed desire to have additional work.
Underemployment rate refers to the percentage of persons in the labor force with jobs or livelihoods but expressed desire to have additional hours of work or to have an additional job.
Chua said the country has made significant progress in its recovery as 81% of the economy has already shifted to Alert Level 1 as of May 1, 2022.
However, the NEDA chief emphasized that the country cannot fully recover without fully resuming face-to-face classes.
“We have already seen a significant recovery in badly hit sectors such as tourism and leisure. We need to take advantage of our progress in vaccination and mobility to fully reopen all sectors, especially face-to-face schooling. This will help secure better opportunities for future generations,” noted Chua.
The NEDA chief earlier said that opening all 60,743 schools for in-person learning will increase economic activity by P12 billion per week.
This is on top of the estimated P16.5 billion to be added to the country’s gross domestic product each week the entire Philippines is under Alert Level 1. —KBK/RSJ, GMA News