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Jobless Filipinos decline further to 1.6M in December 2023

There were fewer jobless Filipinos recorded in the last month of 2023 while the employed ones grew amid the seasonal demand for labor during the holidays, the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Wednesday.

At a press briefing, PSA chief and National Statistician Claire Dennis Mapa said the number of unemployed individuals, ages 15 and above, shrunk further to 1.60 million in December 2023 from 1.83 million in November 2023.

Year-on-year, the number of jobless during the period was fewer by 617,000 compared to the 2.22 million unemployed persons in December 2022.

As a percentage of the total 52.13 million people in the labor force, who are actively seeking for work, the unemployment rate stood at 3.1%.

This means that 31 out of 1,000 individuals in the labor force do not have jobs or livelihoods in December last year, according to Mapa.

December 2023’s unemployment rate was the lowest since 2005, when the PSA introduced a new methodology in conducting the Labor Force Survey.

In a statement, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the record-low unemployment rate signifies "the economy's sustained momentum and resiliency of our labor market."

"Further, the Marcos administration is steadfast in its commitment to prioritize creating high-paying jobs to address the longstanding vulnerabilities in our country’s employment and lower the underemployment rate, an indicator of job quality," Balisacan said. 

"We will continue ramping up social and physical infrastructure investments and dramatically improve human capital to strengthen our people’s employment prospects."

Relatedly, the number of employed persons increased to 50.52 million from 49.64 million in November 2023. 

Year-on-year, employed individuals in December last year were higher by 1.52 million compared to the 49 million persons with jobs and livelihoods seen in December 2022.

This translates to an employment rate of 96.9%, higher than the 96.4% rate seen in November 2023.

This is also the highest employment rate in the country since 2005, according to the PSA chief.

"We saw that every fourth quarter there is an increase in employment… There is really seasonality. This is, of course, during holidays [when] consumption is higher and this creates additional jobs," Mapa said.

Nonetheless, Mapa said those seasonally hired in December amid the holidays were seen to be retained throughout January based on historical data.

The services sector accounted for the largest share of employed persons at 57.3% of the total 50.52 million individuals with jobs or livelihoods during the period.

The agriculture and industry sectors followed, accounting for 24.4% and 18.3%, respectively.

The top five sub-sectors with the highest month-on-month increases in terms of employed persons were as follows:

  • Manufacturing (846,000)
  • Construction (462,000)
  • Agriculture and forestry (300,000)
  • Accommodation and food service activities (174,000)
  • Public administration and defense; compulsory social security  (148,000)

On the other hand, the top five sub-sectors with the largest drop in the number of employed persons month-o-month were the following:

  • Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (-655,000)
  • Administrative and support service activities (-183,000)
  • Transportation and storage (-181,000)
  • Fishing and aquaculture (-174,000)
  • Financial and insurance activities (-99,000)

Wage and salary workers continued to account for the largest share of employed persons, with 62.7% of the total employed persons in December 2023. 

Self-employed persons without any paid employee and unpaid family workers followed with a share of 27.4% and 7.8%, respectively. 

Employers in their own family-operated farm or business had the lowest share of 2.1%.

Among wage and salary workers, those employed in private establishments remained to have the highest share of 78.6% of wage and salary workers.

This was followed by those employed in government or government-controlled corporations with a share of 14.1%.


Despite the increase in employment, job quality was wanting during the period as the number of underemployed — those who seek additional hours of work in their present job or to have additional job — increased to 6.01 million in December 2023 from 5.79 million in November 2023.

This brought the underemployment rate to 11.9%, higher than the 11.7% in November last year.

Balisacan said some of the issues in the labor market can be addressed, in part, by further increasing the utilization of digital technology, which is crucial in raising productivity and promoting efficiency.

"The government must ensure that innovation and digitalization become integral across all sectors. To help enable such processes, we are very open to collaborating with our colleagues in Congress to tackle and ultimately pass the Open Access in Data Transmission bill. Accelerating digitalization and improving connectivity through a more competitive and vibrant ICT sector can be a game changer, especially when considering the socioeconomic opportunities that can be created and multiplied for small business owners and those in far-flung areas," he said.

Balisacan added that the government should enact reforms in education and training programs, such as upskilling and reskilling initiatives, to promote a culture of innovation.

"We will continue to advocate for interventions to support a more agile and adaptive workforce, such as the Apprenticeship Bill, Lifelong Learning Bill, and Enterprise Productivity Act. These efforts will complement the various initiatives to provide upgraded and expanded employment facilitation services to support our robust labor market," the NEDA chief said.

Balisacan, nonetheless, expressed confidence that the favorable trends in the labor sector will continue as the government pushes for more investments by creating an enabling policy and regulatory environment and relentlessly addressing constraints in critical areas identified by the private sector. 

"These include the cost of energy and logistics, the ease of doing business, the competitiveness of the country’s labor force, and the consistency of rules and regulations," he said.  —KBK, GMA Integrated News