The jobless rate in the country declined to 5.3 percent in January from 6.6 percent a year ago, as the labor market continued to thrive on the back of sustained economic growth, the National Economic and Development Authority said Wednesday.
Results of the January 2018 Labor Force Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority showed the ranks of unemployed Filipinos decreased to 2.32 million in January from 2.76 million in the same month last year.
“These improvements in the labor market indicate that more Filipinos are encouraged to join and re-join the labor force, and that more people are being employed. This signals that the economy is responding positively to the economic reforms and programs that the government has been laying down,” Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said in a statement.
Pernia said the 5.3-percent unemployment rate was the lowest for all January rounds of the LFS in the past decade. This was also within the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 target of 4.7 percent to 5.3 percent for 2018.
Data showed that while unemployment rate in the first quarter improved on a year-on-year basis, it was higher than 5-percent jobless rate registered in the fourth quarter represented by the month of October 2017.
Underemployment rate, or the percentage of active workers seeking additional hours of work, climbed to 18 percent in January from 16.3 percent a year ago and 15.9 percent in October 2017. In absolute numbers, underemployed individuals increased to 7.498 million in January from 6.398 million a year earlier.
The National Economic and Development Authority said employment rate rose to 94.7 percent in January, which meant around 41.8 million Filipinos were actively employed during the month. “This rate is the highest in all of the previous January rounds of the LFS since 2009,” it said.
Labor force participation rate also increased by 1.5 percentage points to 62.2 percent in January. Female LFPR bounced back to 47.5 percent in January from 45.2 percent a year earlier, reflecting the sharp decline in the number of economically inactive married women and females who opted out of the labor force due to household duties.
Pernia said despite the encouraging numbers, “the government must continue to raise investments and improve productivity, which in turn, will help boost the productive sectors of the economy and encourage the generation of higher quality employment opportunities.”
Pernia said the government should facilitate the creation of new businesses and boost the outputs of firms by amending market regulations, tackling structural barriers and passing key reforms.
These include the reduction of foreign investment restrictions, the passage of the Ease of Doing Business bill and Package 2 of the tax reform program, which will lower corporate taxes while rationalizing investment incentives, he said.
Data showed that the services sector remained the top employment contributor with a share of 55.9 percent, increasing by 3.8 percent despite the downbeat business outlook of firms for the first quarter.
Employment in agriculture grew 8.4 percentage points to 26 percent, employing an additional 841,000 workers.
Pernia said there was a need to help move the labor force in the agriculture sector out of low-productivity jobs.
Meanwhile, the industry sector employed an additional 719,000 workers after expanding by 10.5 percentage points to 18.1 percent in January 2018, led by the increase in employment in construction and manufacturing.
“More jobs are expected to be created during the country’s infrastructure build up which will not only ease traffic and promote regional development but also generate more quality jobs,” Pernia said.
The unemployment rate among the youth continued to slide to 12.5 percent in January 2018, the lowest recorded for January since 2009.The share of inactive youth, or those who are neither studying nor employed, also declined to 18.8 percent.
“If we are to sustain this trend for the rest of the year, we can achieve the PDP target of lowering youth unemployment to 19.5 – 21.5 percent for 2018,” Pernia said.
“It is important that we continue to push for the full implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law to enable more women to participate in the labor force,” Pernia said.