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Jobless Filipinos rise to 2.15M in January 2024

The number of jobless Filipinos rose in the first month of 2024 while the number of those with jobs and livelihoods decreased amid the easing of seasonal demand for labor following the 2023 holidays, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Friday.

At a press briefing, PSA chief and National Statistician Claire Dennis Mapa said the number of unemployed individuals, ages 15 and above, widened to 2.15 million in January 2024 from 1.60 million in December 2023.

Year-on-year, the number of jobless people during the month was lower by 228,000 compared to the 2.38 million unemployed persons in January 2023.

As a percentage of the total 48.09 million people in the labor force who are actively seeking for work, the unemployment rate stood at 4.5%, higher than the 3.6% unemployment rate in December last year.

“Ang unemployment rate ay naitala sa 4.5%, o apatnapu’t lima sa bawat isang libo na indibidwal na nasa labor force ang walang trabaho o negosyo nitong Enero 2024,” Mapa said.

(The unemployment rate was recorded at 4.5% or 45 out of 1,000 individuals in the labor force do not have jobs or livelihoods in January 2024.)

Relatedly, the number of employed persons decreased to 45.94 million from 50.52 million in December 2023.

Year-on-year, employed individuals in January 2024 were lower by 1.41 million compared to the 47.35 million in January 2023.

This translates to an employment rate of 95.5%, lower than the 96.9% rate seen in January but higher than the 95.2% rate in January 2023.

The increase in joblessness and decline in employed persons was attributed to the easing of labor demand following the “peak of seasonality” in December last year, Mapa said.

“We are seeing workers who were hired or joined the labor market because of economic activities during the fourth quarter… some of them were out, but, of course a portion was retained,” he said.

“December is the peak of seasonality,” Mapa said, noting that labor demand was usually high during the holiday season.

In response to the lackluster labor statistics, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the Marcos administration remains committed to creating a favorable business environment to attract both local and foreign investments in the country, aiming to generate more high-quality employment opportunities. 

"The government sustains its push to attract more job-generating investments by creating an enabling policy and regulatory environment. At the same time, linkages between industry, the academe, and the public sector will be strengthened to address skill mismatches in the labor market,” Balisacan said in a statement. 

The top five sub-sectors that posted the highest annual decreases in the number of employed persons are as follows:

  • Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (-1.51 million)
  • Agriculture and forestry (-854,000)
  • Public administration and defense; compulsory social security (-226,000)
  • Manufacturing (-151,000)
  • Information and communication (-49,000)

Wage and salary workers continued to account for the largest share of employed persons with 67.1% of the total employed persons in January. 

This was followed by self-employed persons without any paid employee at 25.7% and unpaid family workers at 4.7%. 

Employers in their own family-operated farm or business had the lowest share of 2.6%.

Among wage and salary workers, those employed in private establishments remained to have the highest share of 79.3% of the wage and salary workers or 53.2% of the total employed. 

This was followed by those employed in government or government-controlled corporations with a share of 13.6% of the wage and salary workers or 9.1% of the total employed.

Job quality was also lacking during the period as the number of underemployed — those who seek additional hours of work in their present job or to have additional jobs — rose to 6.39 million (out of 45.94 million employed individuals) in January from 6.01 million in December 2023.

This brought the underemployment rate to 13.9%, higher than the 11.9% seen in December last year.

Labor force participation

Labor force participation also contracted in January as the overall labor force participation rate declined to 61.1% from 64.5% year-on-year.

Most of the contraction was recorded among women (-1.3 million), the youth cohort (-1.0 million), and junior high school graduates (-652,000).  

The top reasons cited for not joining the labor force are household duties, age-related restrictions, such as being too young/old or having a permanent disability, and schooling. 

The return to onsite work has limited women’s participation to 49.3% from 53.7% in January last year. 

Similarly, completely on-site schooling has brought the youth labor force participation rate down to 29.6 percent from 34.8 percent in the same period last year. 

“We will remain responsive to the needs of vulnerable groups, including women, youth, older individuals, and those with disabilities. Our existing policy framework governing alternative work arrangements will be revisited,” Balisacan said. 

The NEDA chief added that the “pursuit of policies will be adaptive to the responsibilities of female workers and the evolving work landscape, with a focus on supporting the vulnerable, including those in the creative sector.”  

The country’s chief socioeconomic planner expressed optimism on the implementation of more positive and transformative employment programs following the approval of the implementing rules and regulations or IRR of the “Trabaho Para sa Bayan” (TPB) Act on March 5, 2024.  

Signed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in September 2023, the law aims to promote the employability, competitiveness, and productivity of workers, and to address issues such as unemployment and underemployment.  

Under the TPB Act, an Inter-Agency Council will be created, with NEDA as the chair, Department of Labor and Employment and Department of Trade and Industry as co-chairpersons, and Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority as members. 

It will also include representatives from employers’ organizations, labor organizations, marginalized or vulnerable groups, and informal sectors.    —KBK, GMA Integrated News