THE RANKS of jobless Filipinos and those employed but wanting more work increased in June, government data showed on Tuesday, reflecting the impact of ongoing quarantine restrictions amid the pandemic.
Preliminary results of Philippine Statistics Authority’s latest Labor Force Survey showed there were around 3.764 million unemployed Filipinos in June, inching up from 3.730 million in May.
Unemployment rate was steady at 7.7% in June, unchanged from the previous month. The rise in unemployment despite a steady jobless rate can be explained by the increase in the participation rate, which indicates more Filipinos have entered the labor force.
Meanwhile, the underemployment rate — the proportion of those already working but still looking for more work or longer working hours — worsened to 14.2% in June from 12.3% in May. This translated to 6.409 million underemployed Filipinos, up from 5.492 million in the preceding survey round.
The size of the labor force was approximately 48.840 million in June, up from 48.446 million in May. This brought the labor force participation rate to 65% of the country’s working-age population in June from 64.6% the previous month.
The employment rate remained unchanged at 92.3% in June. In absolute terms, however, the number of employed Filipinos went up to 45.075 million in June from 44.716 million previously.
The service sector made up 57.6% of total employment in June, slightly down from the 57.8% cited in May. The industry sector likewise saw its employment rate go down to 18.1% during the period from 18.4%.
Meanwhile, agriculture had an employment rate of 24.3%, up from 23.8%.
“The labor force survey results for June 2021 show the limits of job creation without major relaxations in quarantine restrictions, especially in the National Capital Region,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua, Department of Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and Department of Budget and Management Officer-in-Charge Tina Rose Marie L. Canda said in a joint statement.
They noted there were around 400,000 jobs created on a net basis between May and June.
“Since January 2020, net job creation has totaled 2.5 million, indicating that the economy has exceeded the pre-pandemic employment level after losing 8.7 million jobs during the height of the quarantines in April 2020,” the economic managers said.
Despite the increase in underemployment rate from May, they noted that June was still “much lower” than the figures posted in the first four months of the year. These figures ranged from as low as 16% in January to as high as 18.2% in February.
“With the emergence of the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) Delta variant, the government has prioritized arresting the spread of this more contagious virus through more proactive quarantines in high-risk areas and an accelerated vaccination program. These actions are crucial in ensuring that economic gains in recent months will resume once we have addressed this current threat,” they added, referring to the more infectious variant of COVID-19.
Metro Manila and its nearby provinces will once again be placed under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from Aug. 6-20 to help curb a possible Delta-driven surge in COVID-19 cases.
In an e-mail, University of the Philippines Professor Emeritus Rene E. Ofreneo said any concrete assessment of the changing labor market conditions is difficult due to the rolling lockdown and relaxation programs across the country.
Nevertheless, he pointed to the increase in the proportion of unpaid family workers to total employed at 8.8% in June versus the 5.9% in January, as well as the decline in those employed in private establishments to 46.9% from 49% during the same period. He attributed these results to “limited jobs in the flattened formal labor market [and the] limited income and livelihood opportunities in the large informal sector.”
MORE JOB LOSSES
Economists expect the job market to incur losses in the coming months given the spread of the Delta variant.
“We expect both unemployment and underemployment figures to trend higher in August with the ECQ, and uncertainties will still provide some degree of caution in terms of stability in the labor market,” Security Bank Corp. Chief Economist Robert Dan J. Roces said in an e-mail.
“However, with the pace of vaccinations picking up, including those of workers in essential industries (A4 sector) in Metro Manila and eight other areas, there is a higher chance of a fast recovery in the labor figures. Compared with the start of the year, overall employment has gone up by 9.3% [in June],” he added.
ING Bank N.V. Manila Senior Economist Nicholas Antonio T. Mapa said it might take a while for the economy’s job figures to return to pre-pandemic levels.
“The continued downtrend in the jobs market coincided with authorities moving hurriedly to relax conditions and trim restrictions with little impact on the numbers. This suggests that previous suggestions from NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) that the unemployment rate will remain elevated at 7-9% for the next two years will likely hold true,” Mr. Mapa said in a statement to reporters.
“We’ve heard several times that the economy can fix itself by simply relaxing restrictions and we know now that this may not be the case,” he added.
Meanwhile, the economic managers said that although the reimposition of ECQ may temporarily impact employment outcomes in August, the government looks to maximize this period to accelerate inoculation in high-risk areas.
The country has administered 20.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Aug. 1, with around 10 million of those carried out in July.
“With this rapid progress in the rate of inoculation and the expected arrival of 132.7 million doses in the next six months, we are confident that we can vaccinate 70 million Filipinos or the entire adult population by the end of 2021,” they said. — Bernadette Therese M. Gadon with inputs from Beatrice M. Laforga and Luz Wendy T. Noble