THE RANKS of jobless Filipinos reached 4.2 million in February, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported this morning.

Preliminary results of the PSA’s February 2021 round of the Labor Force Survey (LFS) showed around 4.187 million unemployed Filipinos, up from 3.953 million in the January LFS round.

This puts the unemployment rate at 8.8% in February, up from 8.7% in January.

The February reading was the third highest since the jobless rates recorded in April 2020 and July 2020 at 17.6% and 10%, respectively.

Likewise the underemployment rate — the proportion of those already working — but still looking for more work or longer working hours, worsened to 18.2% in February from 16% in January. This translates to 7.850 million underemployed Filipinos, more than the 6.589 million in the preceding survey round.

The size of the labor force was approximately 47.341 million in February, up from 45.201 million in January. This brought the labor force participation rate (LFPR) to 63.5% in February from 60.5% previously. This was the highest LFPR reported since April 2020, according to the PSA.

The employment rate — the proportion of the employed to the total labor force — clocked in at 91.2% in February, edging down from 91.3% in January. In absolute terms, however, the number of employed Filipinos increased to 43.153 million from January’s 41.248 million.

The employment rate in the services sector increased to 58.4% in February from 57.2% the previous month. On the other hand, those in agriculture and industry slipped to 23.9% and 17.7%, respectively, from 24.4% and 18.4%.

The February LFS round marked the first of the monthly surveys to be conducted by the PSA in order to closely monitor the current job situation in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic. In previous years, jobs data was conducted and released on a quarterly basis. — Lourdes O. Pilar