Unemployment at all-time high

ABOUT 4.5 million Filipinos have lost their jobs this year with the unemployment rate at 10.4% – the highest in 15 years, the government reported, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown shuttering thousands of businesses.

But as quarantine restrictions gradually eased and the economy reopened to allow workers to return to their jobs, the jobless rate also eased to 8.7% in October, National Statistician Dennis Mapa told a press conference on Thursday.

He cited the latest preliminary results of the Philippine Statistics Authority’s quarterly labour force survey (LFS).

Labour groups, however, found no reason to celebrate, calling the supposed decline in unemployment an “illusion”.

The unemployment rate in October – the highest across all the October LFS rounds since the Philippines adopted its current definition of employment in 2005 – was equivalent to 3.8 million Filipinos in the labour force who were jobless.

The jobless rate in October was below the 10% rate in July, which was equivalent to 4.6 million Filipinos without jobs, and April’s rate of 17.6% (or 7.2 million jobless Filipinos).

The Philippines imposed the enhanced community quarantine in areas with high Covid-19 cases from mid-March to May, which stopped 75% of the economy.

For comparison, the unemployment rate in October last year was 4.6% or two million jobless.

Acting socioeconomic planning secretary Karl Kendrick Chua attributed the jobs recovery in October to “the reopening of the economy”.Chua, who heads the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority noted that a string of four typhoons plus the onset of a projected prolonged wet season had inflicted “significant employment loss in agriculture”.

“In the latter half of October, the country was hit by Typhoons Nika, Ofel, Pepito and Quinta, which contributed to the reduction of agriculture employment by 1.1 million, or about 70% of the 1.5 million jobs lost between July and October.

“Workers in the provinces also faced difficulty in returning to

work given inter-province transport restrictions, and contributed to the 0.5-million loss in the industry sector, ” he said.

Labour groups were not impressed by the improving data.

The “minimal” increase in the number of workers who had returned to work paled beside the “millions” of workers who lost their jobs in the continuing layoffs, said Defend Jobs Philippines spokesperson Christian Magsoy.

“A mere 800,000 revived jobs do not give us reason to celebrate, ” he added.

The Centre of United and Progressive Workers (Sentro) described the easing of the unemployment rate as “a complete illusion”.

It said the drop could be “largely explained by the fact that at least 2.2 million workers were considered as out of the labour force”.

Sentro also said the number of those employed in agriculture and manufacturing declined, while those employed in the services sector were mostly workers of family-run farms or businesses.

In the Philippine parliament, Representative Joey Salceda said the latest unemployment figures should “signal the urgent need” for a final round of stimulus measures. — Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN

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