THE LATEST labor data in August showed a mixed picture as joblessness picked up, but the ranks of those wanting more work declined.

The preliminary report of the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) August round of the labor force survey (LFS) put the unemployment rate at 8.1%, compared with 6.9% in the previous round. It was the highest jobless rate in four months, or since April 2021’s 8.7%.

In absolute terms, there were 3.882 million unemployed Filipinos in August, up from 3.073 million in July.

In an online Q&A session, the PSA attributed the increase in unemployment to the lockdowns imposed in August. To recall, the government imposed a two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila in August as it sought to contain a renewed surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.

Meanwhile, the quality of available jobs improved as the underemployment rate — the proportion of those already working but still looking for more work or longer working hours — decreased to 14.7% from 20.9% in the previous month, equivalent to 6.482 million Filipinos, from 8.692 million a month ago.

The size of the labor force was about 48.116 million in August, up from 44.740 million in July. This brought the labor force participation rate to 63.6% of the working age population in August from July’s 59.8%.

The employment rate stood at 91.9% of the labor force in August, down from 93.1% in July. In absolute basis, however, the number of employed Filipinos increased to 44.234 million in August from 41.667 million in July.

Services and industry made up 56% and 18.9% of total employment in August, respectively, down from 57.9% and 20% in July. Meanwhile, agriculture’s share of employment went up to 25.1% from 22.1% a month earlier. — Bernadette Therese M. Gadon