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Jobless ranks hit new peak

Posted on May 21, 2012

ADULT UNEMPLOYMENT hit a fresh record high in the first quarter, the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed, with almost as many respondents expecting more jobs to become available in the next 12 months as those who see less.

The first-quarter survey, conducted face-to-face from March 10-13 among 1,200 adults nationwide, showed adult unemployment hitting a record-high 34.4%, equivalent to about 13.8 million individuals.

This was 10 points more than the 24% -- or about 9.7 million -- recorded in the December 2011 survey and surpassed the previous record of 34.2% in February 2009.

The SWS findings compared with the government’s own Labor Force Survey (LFS) in January which showed unemployment rate eased slightly to 7.2% that month from 7.4% the previous year, with the ranks of the jobless barely moving to 2.922 million from 2.917 million in the same periods.

Responding to results of the SWS survey, a Palace official said government continued to work on generating more jobs, even as he cited the LFS’s wider respondent base, while a private sector economist noted the survey institution’s unemployment findings jibe with those of its latest poverty and hunger surveys.

SWS said its latest survey found that the unemployed -- covering those aged at least 18 years who did not have work and were looking for a job -- consisted of 13% retrenched, 15% resigned and 6% first-time job seekers.

Ten percent of the retrenched had previous contracts that were not renewed, 2% whose employers closed shop and 1% who were laid off.

Since November 2010, the number of unemployed has been dominated by those who voluntarily left their jobs and those who lost them under economic circumstances beyond their control, SWS said.

The survey also found that 33% of respondents said the number of available jobs in the next 12 months will not change, while 26% expected more jobs and 25% said there will be less job openings.

Compared to the previous quarter, the proportion of those whose contracts were not renewed rose to 10% from 7%, those who were laid off stayed at 1%, while those whose employers closed shop stayed at 2%.

The proportion of those who resigned increased to 15% from 9% in the same period, while that of first-time job seekers rose to 6% from 5%.

Unemployment was relatively high among women, though there was a bigger jump from the December survey among jobless men.

SWS noted that compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate among men increased by about 12 points to 27.6% in March from 15.2% in December 2011, while that of women rose seven points to 43.0% from 35.6%.

The unemployment rate was highest among the younger segments: 55.9% of respondents ages 18-24 years from 49.1% in December, and 45.4% among those ages 24-34 years from 29.9%.

The jobless rate among those aged at least 45 years grew to 30.8% from 17.3% in the same period, while those ages 35-44 years saw this proportion rise to 21.7% from 18.7%.

Sought for comment, Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. of the Presidential Communications and Operations Office said, "We continue to exert greater efforts to generate more employment opportunities."

He added, however, that "in the broader-based Labor Force Survey conducted by the National Statistics Office with more than 52,000 respondents nationwide, latest unemployment rate is at 7.2% which is lower than what was recorded in the previous administration."

Still, for Benjamin E. Diokno, economics professor at the University of the Philippines, "The rise in adult joblessness is consistent with the increase in poverty and hunger as shown in the SWS survey results."

Those SWS surveys, also conducted on March 10-13, showed the percentage of respondents experiencing involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months hit a new record high of 23.8%, equivalent to 4.8 million families, while those who rated themselves poor increased to 55%, equivalent to some 11.1 million families, from 45%, or 9.1 million families, in December.

"The three problems are intertwined," Mr. Diokno said.

"The results suggest that creating jobs should be on top of the government’s agenda." -- with inputs from A. S. O. Alegado