The country’s unemployment rate in March slowed to its lowest since the start of the pandemic, but job quality worsened to four-month high, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Friday.

Preliminary results of the agency’s March round of the Labor Force Survey (LFS) showed the unemployment rate eased to 5.8% from 6.4% in February. However, it was also lower than the jobless rate of 7.1% a year ago.

The number of the unemployed Filipinos was reduced by 251,000 to 2.875 million in March from 3.126 million in February. This was lower by 566,000 from 3.441 million a year ago.

March’s jobless rate was the lowest since the 5.3% in January 2020, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the quality of jobs slightly worsened in March. The underemployment rate — the share of those already working, but still looking for more work or longer working hours to total employed population — rose to 15.8% that month, an increase from 14% the previous month, but still lower than the 16.2% in the same period last year.

This translated to 7.422 million Filipinos looking for an additional job or longer working hours, an increase of 1.040 million from February’s 6.382 million and higher by 86,000 from 7.335 million a year ago.

Underemployment rate in March was the highest in four months or since the 16.7% recorded in November lasty year.

Meanwhile, the size of the labor force in March continued to pick up month on month by 1.244 million to 49.850 million. It was larger by 1.078 million from a year ago’s 48.772 million.

This translated to a labor force participation rate (LFPR) — the proportion of the total labor in the working-age population of 15 years old and over — of 65.4% in March, higher than the previous month’s 63.8% and last year’s 65%.

It was the highest LFPR since the 66.3% in October 2011.

The employment rate — the share of the employed to the total working force — was 94.2% in March, an increase from 93.6% in the previous month and 92.9% in March 2021.

This was equivalent to approximately 46.975 million employed Filipinos, higher by 1.495 million from 45.480 million in February. About 1.643 million Filipinos became employed from last year’s 45.332 million.

The PSA started reporting monthly jobs data in 2021. Prior to that, the agency published employment figures on a quarterly (January, April, July, and October) basis.

The March round of LFS was conducted from March 8 to 28. — M. I. U. Catilogo