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Jobless rate hits three-year high

April figures cast doubts on growth in economy   UNEMPLOYMENT worsened to 7.5 percent in April, the highest in three years, despite a 7.8 percent growth in the economy, data released by the National Statistics Office showed Tuesday. The jobless rate was worse than the 6.9 percent in the same month last year, and the 7.1 percent posted in January 2013, the NSO reported. There were 3.09 million unemployed in the Philippines as of April, up from 2.89 million in January. The number of under-employed persons was estimated at 7.25 million or 19.2 percent, practically unchanged from April 2012. The poor employment figures triggered a stock market decline Tuesday, but the government played down the report, blaming the job losses on a seasonal decline in agriculture. Critics said the worsening unemployment cast doubts on the administration’s claims of economic growth. “A fast growing economy is supposed to create more, not less, jobs,” said Benjamin Diokno, who was Budget secretary under the Estrada administration. “Yet more jobs were lost this April compared to April 2012. If the economy has really grown at 7.8 percent as trumpeted by Malacanang, how come joblessness has increased? The inconvenient truth is that the unemployment rate could have been worse had more workers looked for a job. The labor force participation rate declined from 64.7 percent in April 2012 to 63.9 percent in April 2013. Perhaps after months, some even years, of looking for employment, some workers had decided to stop their job search.” The NSO’s April 2013 Labor Force Survey showed that unemployment among the young and college graduates continued to rise. Among the young (15 to 34), the number of jobless people rose 180,000 from 2.26 million to 2.44 million. Among college graduates, unemployment rose by 227,449, from 877,339 in April 2012 to 1.1 million this April. President Benigno Aquino III and other government officials blamed the job losses on the agricultural sector. “The decline in employed persons was accounted for by agricultural workers. The farmers delayed their planting in April because of unfavorable weather conditions,” Mr. Aquino said. “Unfortunately, the survey also was done in April. So it will really show that there was a decline,” the President said. But Mr. Aquino said the job losses in the agriculture sector were offset by improvements in the industry and services sectors. “There is a net loss of something like 21,000 jobs. Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said it was that small,” the President said. NSO figures show the number of agricultural workers dropped from an estimated 12.468 million in April 2012 to 11.844 million in April 2013, lower by about 624,000 workers. The total number of employed persons in April 2013 stood at 37.819 million compared to 37.840 million in April 2012, a decrease of around 21,000 workers. “Despite these discouraging numbers, we would like to assure you that our development path is still on track,” said National Economic and Development Authority Assistant Director-General Rose Edillon. The labor force consists of Filipinos aged 15 years and over who are employed or are actively looking for jobs. The total number of employed persons in April 2013 was estimated at 37.819 million compared to 37.840 million in April 2012, or a decrease of about 21,000 workers. The service sector still had the largest number of workers, growing 1.9 percent or 380,000 workers from April 2012 to April 2013. Data also showed that workers in the services sector accounted for more than half (52.6 percent) of the total workforce. Agriculture came in second, accounting for 31.3 percent of the workforce. Workers in industry made up 16.1 percent. Among the workers in the services sector, those engaged in the wholesale and retail trade or in the repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles made up the largest percentage, covering 34.6 percent of the total employed in the services sector in April 2013. In the industry sector, workers in manufacturing accounted for the largest percentage, making up 52.3 percent of the total workers in this sector. Metro Manila and Calabarzon posted unemployment rates of higher than 10 percent. Wage and salary workers accounted for 57.5 percent of the total employed in April 2013, up from 55.8 percent, the NSO said. Of these, 44.3 percent worked in private companies, while 8.1 percent worked for state-owned or controlled corporations. Those working for private households accounted for 4.8 percent. The number of full-time workers, defined as those working 40 hours or more, grew to 63.5 percent from 55.1 percent in the same period last year. Those who were working part time dropped to 34.7 percent in April 2013 from 42.8 percent in April 2012. There were more males (61.4 percent) than females (38.6 percent) among the unemployed. The age group 15-24 made up 48.2 percent of the total unemployed, while the age group 25-34 accounted for 30.9 percent. By education, about one-fifth (21.3 percent) of the unemployed were college graduates, 14.6 percent were college undergraduates, and 31.7 percent were high school graduates. Edillon said a mismatch in education and demand in jobs meant the government faced three challenges. First, it had to increase job opportunities to absorb new job entrants and to reduce unemployment, she said. Second, it needed to increase the “employability” of workers and job entrants by addressing the jobs and skills mismatch. Third, it needed to address seasonal employment in sectors such as agriculture, which are also susceptible to damage from natural disasters. NEDA officer-in-charge and deputy director-general Emmanuel F. Esguerra said greater diversification of agricultural production was one possible solution. The Bureau of Agriculture Statistics reported that farmers were hesitant to plant amid an impending El Nino phenomenon, while others were still recovering from the losses incurred from typhoons Pablo and Quinta during the fourth quarter of 2012. Also on Tuesday, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz played down the higher employment figures, saying the government needed to put “equal emphasis on the quality of employment.” Baldoz said one indicator of an improvement in the quality of employment was the larger number of full-time workers this year. An increase in wage and salaried workers also meant a decline in the number of self-employed persons, she said. Following the release of the unemployment figures, the Philippine Stock Exchange Index slumped 4.6 percent to 6,556.65 at the close, ending a three-day rally. “The high unemployment rate casts a shadow of doubt on the strength of economic growth and its sustainability,” Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist at Manila-based BDO Unibank Inc. “Whether the perception is right or wrong, it raises questions. The exports data highlights the world economy remains fragile.” With Joyce Pangco Pañares, Vito Barcelo and Bloomberg
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