Home Economy PHL jobless rate hits 4-month high

PHL jobless rate hits 4-month high

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People attend a job fair at a school in Pasay City, May 9. The unemployment rate rose to a four-month high in May. — PHILIPPINE STAR/RYAN BALDEMOR

By Karis Kasarinlan Paolo D. Mendoza

THE PHILIPPINE jobless rate climbed to a four-month high in May while the quality of jobs improved to its best level since 2005, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Monday.

Preliminary data from the PSA’s Labor Force Survey (LFS) showed the unemployment rate inched up to 4.1% from 4% in April, as the labor force expanded. However, it was lower than the 4.3% recorded in May last year.

May saw the highest unemployment rate in four months or since the 4.5% print in January.

This translated to 2.11 million unemployed Filipinos in May, up by 65,000 from 2.04 million in April.

Year on year, the number of jobless Filipinos went down by 61,000 from 2.17 million in May 2023.

In the first five months of the year, the unemployment rate averaged 4%, lower than the 4.6% average a year ago.

PSA Undersecretary and National Statistician Claire Dennis S. Mapa said the bigger labor force size was the main contributor to the rise in unemployment.

“One of the reasons why unemployment went up is the increase in participants in the labor market. Over half a million people joined the labor force but not all of them found employment,” he said in mixed English and Filipino during the press briefing on Monday.

PSA data showed that 50.97 million people became part of the labor force in May, growing by 575,000 from 50.4 million in April.

On an annual basis, the labor force increased by 544,000 from 50.43 million in May 2023.

This translated to a labor force participation rate (LFPR) of 64.8%, higher than 64.1% in the previous month, but lower than 65.3% a year ago. Year to date, the LFPR averaged 64%.

JOB QUALITY IMPROVESMeanwhile, job quality in May improved as underemployment dropped to 9.9%, lower than 14.6% in April and the 11.7% reading in May last year.

May marked the lowest underemployment recorded since the start of the revised series almost two decades ago.

The number of underemployed Filipinos — those who want longer work hours or an additional job — stood at 4.82 million in May, falling by 2.22 million month on month and by 846,000 year on year.

As of end-May, the average underemployment rate was 12.3%.

“A substantial amount contributing to the decrease in underemployment came from those categorized visibly underemployed or those who work less than 40 hours per week. There were those among them that said they were working second jobs, so they were satisfied with working less than 40 hours at their primary jobs as a result,” Mr. Mapa said.

He also said that the decline in underemployment may be seen in certain subsectors such as wholesale and retail trade, agriculture and forestry, construction, manufacturing, other service activities, transportation and storage, and accommodation and food service activities.

“Notably, underemployment decreased dramatically in May, suggesting improved job quality and better skills matching despite the slight unemployment increase,” Robert Dan J. Roces, chief economist at Security Bank Corp., said in an e-mail.

The employment rate, on the other hand, inched down to 95.9% from 96% in April, but still higher than 95.7% in May 2023.

This was equivalent to 48.87 million employed Filipinos, up by 510,000 from 48.36 million in April, and 605,000 from 48.26 million in May last year.

The employment rate averaged 96% in the January-May period, up from 95.4% a year ago.

In May, the biggest monthly job loss was seen in accommodation and food service activities, which cut 322,000 jobs to bring the total to 2.43 million. Job losses were also seen in fishing and aquaculture (down 241,000 to 1.2 million) and administrative and support service activities (down 135,000 to 2.42 million).

Meanwhile, month-on-month job gains were recorded in agriculture and forestry (up 610,000 to 8.96 million), construction (up 391,000 to 5.09 million), and public administration and defense (up 309,000 to 3.13 million).

Year on year, agriculture and forestry shed 1.02 million jobs to bring the total to 10.17 million. Annual job losses were also seen in fishing and aquaculture (down 543,000 to 1.2 million) and arts, entertainment, and recreation (down 178,000 to 475,000).

On the other hand, construction posted the largest annual job gains, adding 745,000 jobs to 5.09 million. Significant job gains were also seen in administrative and support service activities (up 371,000 to 2.42 million) and manufacturing (up 347,000 to 3.85 million).

“The construction, administrative services, and manufacturing sectors showed strong growth, offsetting losses in other areas. Given these mixed signals, future unemployment trends are uncertain but may stabilize or decrease if positive sector growth continues,” Mr. Roces said.

He expects underemployment to continue to fluctuate, though “not as extremely” as the April-to-May shift.

“For the coming months, La Niña could cause business disruptions that could be a drag on employment data,” Michael L. Ricafort, chief economist at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., said in an e-mail

Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa Secretary-General Josua T. Mata said that the government’s job generation program is lacking.

“The government clings to an outdated belief that its role is merely to enable the private sector, resisting the idea of a robust public employment program that guarantees jobs for those who want to work,” he said in a Viber message.

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