More than seven million Filipinos were jobless amid a coronavirus pandemic in April, driving up the country’s jobless rate to a 15-year record.

The unemployment rate quickened to 17.7% from 5.1% a year earlier, the fastest since the Philippine government adopted new definitions for its labor force survey in 2005, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said on Friday.

The agency said about 7.25 million Filipinos were jobless, more than three times more than 2.27 million a year earlier.

Underemployed Filipinos — those already working but still looking for more work — also rose to 6.39 million from 5.61 million a year earlier, pushing the underemployment rate to 18.9% from 13.4%.

This was the fastest since the 19.2% underemployment rate posted in April 2013, the statistics agency said.

The size of the labor force was about 41.02 million out of 73.7 million Filipinos aged at least 15 years, yielding a labor force participation rate of 55.6%, the “lowest in the history of the Philippine labor market.”

The employment rate — the ratio of people with jobs to the total labor force — dropped to 82.3% in April from 94.9% a year earlier.

This was equivalent to about 33.76 million Filipinos, eight million fewer than 41.76 million employed people in April 2019, the PSA said.

By sector, services made up the largest share of the employed population at 57.1% in April. Industry accounted for 17% and agriculture 25.9%.

The sharp fall in labor participation means there were probably many people who were not available for work due to the lockdown, Geoffrey M. Ducanes, an Ateneo de Manila University associate professor said in an e-mail.

“Some people might have had a job but did not earn any income,” he said. While the government survey classified someone as “employed” if he had a job or worked at least an hour in the past week, “during the lockdown, there were many people who likely had a job but did not earn anything because they were paid on a daily basis or on commission,” he said.

Employed people “with job, but not at work” swelled to 38.4% of the total, or almost 13 million from 1.1% a year earlier. — Marissa Mae M. Ramos

Philippine job situation at a glance