The unemployment rate eased to 10 percent in July from the record high of 17.7 percent in April but joblessness in some regions including Metro Manila and mostly economic centers, are higher than the country’s average.
The Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) latest Labor Force Survey (LFS) released yesterday showed the unemployment rate posted in July is higher than the 5.4 percent in the same month a year ago.
Unemployed Filipinos who are 15 years old and over are estimated at 4.6 million in July, higher by 2.1 million compared to the same period a year ago but lower by 2.7 million from three months previously.
Dennis Mapa, national statistician, said in a virtual briefing the improvement in the unemployment rate from April was due to the easing of quarantine measures imposed to address the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The government started implementing the community quarantine since mid-March, which resulted to minimal economic activity. But this has since been eased in the different provinces enabling some workers to return to their jobs, as reflected in the survey results.
However, the PSA reported that five regions still reported double-digit unemployment rates.
The highest unemployment rate estimate of 15.8 percent was recorded in the National Capital Region (NCR). It was followed by Region IV-A (CALABARZON), 12.4 percent; Region VII (Central Visayas),11.7 percent; Region I (Ilocos Region), 11.1 percent; and Region III (Central Luzon),10.9 percent.
NCR in particular even posted a higher unemployment rate in July, from the 12.3 percent recorded in April 2020.
Karl Kendrick Chua, acting socioeconomic planning secretary, said in a separate briefing the higher unemployment rate basically reflects the quarantine status.
“As of September 1, the far majority of the country is already in modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), however the core areas where we have the biggest share of gross domestic product (GDP), like NCR and
two provinces around it, are still in GCQ so there will still be some effect on making the unemployment rates slow to decline,” Chua said.
“The sooner we can lower the quarantine status which reflects also our cooperation and how the Bayanihan 2 and Build, Build, Build and the upcoming 2021 budget are all implemented, then we can see further improvements in the unemployment rate,” he added.
Chua said in the coming months, better GDP and job numbers will hinge on how open the economy is.
This entails a better strategy to “prevent, detect, isolate, treat and recover,” Chua said, adding that it also requires a safe and sufficient number of public transportation that, if needed, is supported by service contract subsidies.
“Without the public transport system back sufficiently, many people cannot go back to work. To illustrate, under GCQ, the share of the NCR economy that is allowed to open is 58.2 percent, but without sufficient public transport, it falls to 35.5 percent,” Chua said.
Secretary Silvestre Bello III of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) shared Chua’s optimism and sees the decelerating trend in unemployment to continue in the coming months as more businesses are able to reopen.
Bello in a statement said the restoration of some 7.5 million jobs and the return to work of around 4.9 million workers is only the start of the progress in the employment situation.
Bello said DOLE is looking at resuming employment facilitation services to allow more members of the workforce to find jobs.
“Employment facilitation services in different platforms – online, digital, and face-to-face – with the assistance of our Public Employment Service Offices (PESOs), various national government agencies, and the private sector will be provided in order to connect Filipino jobseekers with the much-needed decent jobs for the country and its economy to recover,” Bello said.
Meanwhile the PSA also reported that the employment rate picked-up at 90 percent this July 2020 compared to the record low of 82.3 percent in April 2020.
However, it remains lower than the employment rate of 94.6 percent in the same month a year ago.
About 41.3 million Filipinos were employed in July 2020, 42.5 million in July 2019, and 33.8 million in April 2020.
The PSA said the employed persons who reported with a job but are not at work was estimated at 3.3 percent or 1.4 million employed Filipinos in July 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic or community quarantines as the paramount reason given, similar to that of the second quarter.
The underemployment rate is also down to 17.3 percent in July 2020 compared to the estimate of 18.9 percent in April 2020. However, the PSA said this underemployment rate is still worse than the estimate in July 2019 at 13.6 percent.
In terms of count, about 7.1 million were underemployed persons as of July 2020. In July 2019 and April 2020, about 5.8 million and 6.4 million Filipinos, respectively, were underemployed.
“The general direction that we are seeing, between April and July, as we see the virus pandemic more contained, as we see the quarantine status relaxed more, we are seeing significant restoration of jobs estimated at 7.5 million, as of July, from the LFS,” Chua said.
“We expect the improvements to continue and that will depend on three things. Number one is the restriction, or the level of quarantine, and that will depend on the cooperation of everyone, to meet the minimum health standards. Number two, is basically improving our testing, tracing and isolation capacity so that we can care for those who are infected and those who get sick so that they will not infect others, and the third one is the extent to which we open the public transportation,” he added.
Up to 2.8M more
Chua said that if the country achieves all these, there will be around 2.4 to 2.8 million additional employment next year.
“That will allow us to lower further our unemployment rate… from the average right now of around 11 percent after three quarters… to around six to eight percent by next year,” Chua said.
“This will be a gradual lowering, we know that there are sectors that will not recover as fast as possible, but this result that we see in the July survey shows that our policy direction and action are actually showing results,” he added.
Chua said the five sectors that saw the most number of returning jobs are trade, agriculture, construction, manufacturing and transport.
These sectors directly benefited from the relaxation of quarantine measures and are important contributors to jobs and GDP growth, he said.
“We are unlikely to see any spikes so long as we all cooperate and so long as government implements in an accelerated manner, the recovery program, that is why immediately after Bayanihan 2, we would like to request congress to fast track the remaining complimentary measures,” Chua said.
“The trend is actually a recovery, we do not expect a U-turn at anytime, and our assumption lies on the vaccine being available sometime in the middle or third quarter of next year. We expect by 2022 we would have gone back to our trajectory which is around four to five percent unemployment rate, which is also in our planned target,” he added. (With G.Naval)