The country’s labor market bounced back to its pre-pandemic level, as the unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 percent in October from 7.4 percent a year ago, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said Wednesday.
It was the lowest jobless rate recorded for all October rounds since 2019, the PSA said. It also eased from 5 percent in September.
“In October 2022, the country’s unemployment rate also fell back to pre-pandemic levels at 4.5 percent, translating into 2.24 million unemployed Filipinos. This is a decline of 1.26 million from the 3.50 million unemployed reported in October 2021, and lower by 256,000 compared to the 2.50 million unemployed in September 2022,” national statistician and civil registrar general Dennis Mapa said in a briefing.
He said the employment rate increased to 95.5 percent, the highest record since the start of the pandemic. This translated into an employment level of 47.1 million in October, or 3.3 million higher than a year ago.
The labor force participation rate accelerated to 64.2 percent in October from 62.6 percent a year earlier, translating into an additional 2 million individuals entering the workforce.
Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said an upbeat labor market was sustained, leading toward a strong economic recovery from the impact of the pandemic.
“The country’s sustained recovery of the labor market backs our confidence that our policies and interventions to reinvigorate our economy are working,” Balisacan said in a statement.
“Our move to finally open face-to-face classes at full capacity has paved the way for us to immediately address the learning losses from the pandemic—this is a precursor to a workforce that demonstrates competence and high productivity. Also, with children back in school, parents-at-home—especially mothers—are also able to pursue more income opportunities,” Balisacan said.
Most of the increase in employment came from the services and industry sectors, while the agriculture sector posted employment loss because of the tropical cyclones that entered the country in October.
The contraction in the sector was slightly moderated by fishing and aquaculture, which recorded 34,000 additional employments during the period.
The PSA said the underemployment rate also eased to 14.2 percent in October from 16.1 percent a year ago, or 371,000 fewer underemployed persons.
The number of invisibly underemployed continued to increase as more seek to earn additional income amid the persistent rise in commodity prices.
“While the employment numbers have improved, we recognize that we need to expand efforts towards creating more and high-quality employment by improving workforce employability. We need to do this if we really want to pursue economic transformation,” Balisacan said.
Balisacan said the government was committed to boosting the country’s disaster resilience as the La Niña season was expected to persist until March 2023.
These include the effective implementation of emergency employment programs to minimize employment losses, leveraging technology that will improve knowledge-sharing and establishing preventive and responsive measures for disaster risk reduction and management across the country, he said.
Recognizing the private sector as the country’s engine for growth, Balisacan urged for more public-private partnerships to expand skills development and opportunities in the country.
“More than reducing the total unemployment, our goal is to ensure that the strategies of the Philippine Development Plan for 2023-2028 will be fully implemented to generate more jobs, green jobs, and high-quality jobs that will provide Filipinos sufficient income for their needs,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva welcomed the decrease in the country’s unemployment rate.
“While it is indeed good news, we still need clear plans for sustaining this positive momentum, as 1.5 million more Filipinos will be added in the labor force next year,” he said.
“We need to focus on improving employment in the agriculture sector since more than half a million jobs were lost in this sector between July and October of this year,” Villanueva said.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda also welcomed the lower unemployment.
“The October jobs report signals that the economy’s reopening is creating new jobs in sectors that suffered greatly during the pandemic,” said Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means.
Salceda added: “Wholesale and retail trade, transportation and storage, and construction were the biggest jobs creators, pointing to recovery due to full lifting of pandemic restrictions.”