As the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine restrictions spilled over to 2021, 4 million Filipinos were left jobless in January with the unemployment rate hitting a 16-year-high, the government reported.
Joblessness rose despite the gradual reopening of the economy, with President Duterte’s economic managers pushing for further easing of restrictions to allow more people to go back to work.
Preliminary results of the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) labor force survey (LFS) in January showed that the unemployment rate worsened to 8.7 percent from 5.3 percent a year ago.
Dennis Mapa, the national statistician, said the jobless rate was the highest since 2005 when the government adopted its current employment metrics.
The actual number of jobless Filipinos rose to 4 million from 2.4 million during the same month in 2020.
January’s unemployment rate matched the 8.7 percent in October last year, but the number of people without jobs was lower—3.8 million—a quarter ago.
In January, the number of Filipinos who joined the labor market or those economically active at age 15 and above rose to 45.2 million from 43.6 million a quarter ago and 44.9 million a year ago.
But underemployment among workers who want to earn more money worsened in January to 16 percent or 6.6 million Filipinos from 14.4 percent (5.7 million individuals) a quarter ago and 14.8 percent (6.3 million) a year ago.
But reopening economy sees jobs returning
For the country’s economic team led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, “the results of the January labor force survey are promising as it tells us that we are on track to getting back most of the jobs we have lost due to COVID-19 and the quarantines.”
“While the unemployment rate remains unchanged at 8.7 percent, more opportunities from the easing of restrictions meant that more people are rejoining the labor force.
Between October 2020 and January 2021, some 1.4 million jobs were restored as the labor force participation rate, or the proportion of the working-age population that is either working or actively looking for work, increased from 58.7 percent to 60.5 percent over that three-month period,” the team said.
The economic team said 269,000 jobs were restored in Metro Manila as the jobless rate fell to 8.8 percent in January from 12.4 percent in October, but joblessness outside Metro Manila rose to 8.7 percent at the start of 2020 from 8.2 percent a quarter ago.
“To accelerate economic growth and job creation this year, a three-pronged strategy is needed: First, safely reopening our economy, while strictly adhering to health standards. Second, fully implementing the recovery package, especially those whose budgets have already been allocated but not yet fully spent. And third, ensuring timely implementation of the vaccine program to cover the entire adult population,” they said.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that amid the high unemployment rate, the government was planning to further reopen the economy and ease movement and transportation restrictions.