The number of jobless Filipinos increased to 4.187 million in February from 3.953 million in January, based on latest official data. -- Photo by Michael Varcas, The Philippine Star

THE COUNTRY’s jobless rate in March fell to its lowest level since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported this morning.

Preliminary results of the PSA’s March 2021 round of the Labor Force Survey (LFS) showed around 3.441 million unemployed Filipinos, down from 4.187 million and 3.953 million in the February and January LFS rounds, respectively.

This puts the March unemployment rate at 7.1%, the lowest since the 5.3% in January 2020, as well as the record-high 17.6% posted in April 2020.

The underemployment rate — the proportion of those already working — but still looking for more work or longer working hours, improved to 16.2% in March from 18.2% in February and 16% in January.

This translates to 7.355 million underemployed Filipinos, less than the 7.850 million in February. However, this was higher than the 6.589 million recorded in the January LFS round.

The size of the labor force was approximately 48.772 million in March, up from 47.341 million in February and 45.201 million in January. This brought the labor force participation rate (LFPR) to 65% in March, the highest since the 65.2% posted in April 2014.

The employment rate — the proportion of the employed to the total labor force — was recorded at 92.9% in March. This was higher than the 91.2% rate in February and 91.3% in January. In absolute terms, this was equivalent to 45.332 million in March versus 43.153 million and 41.248 million in February and January, respectively.

The PSA noted the LFS for March was conducted from March 8 to 27, days before the government put Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite on the enhanced community quarantine — the strictest form of lockdown — in reaction of renewed surge in coronavirus cases. — Ana Olivia A. Tirona