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Unemployment dips to 7.4% in Oct., third-lowest this year

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The country's unemployment rate decreased to 7.4 percent in October 2021 from 8.9 percent a month before, the third lowest rate this year, as more people were employed for the month compared to the same period last year, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said Tuesday.

In its Labor Force Survey report, the PSA said the lowest reported unemployment rate was in July 2021 estimated at 6.9 percent, followed by 7.1 percent in March 2021. The unemployment rate was highest this year in September 2021 at 8.9 percent.

National statistician and civil registrar general Dennis Mapa said in an online briefing that the employment situation in the country improved, with a reported 43.83 million employed persons in October 2021 from 39.84 million employed persons in the same period last year.

"The employment rate posted a month-on-month increase from 91.1 percent in September 2021 to 92.6 percent this October 2021," Mapa said.

In terms of magnitude, the total number of unemployed persons 15 years old and over in October 2021 was registered at 3.5 million. This was 309,000 people less than reported in October 2020.

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The Duterte administration's economic managers—Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, and Budget Department officer-in-charge Tina Rose Marie Canda—said in a joint statement that the numbers affirmed the soundness of the government’s push to safely reopen the economy, restore employment, and manage the spread of COVID-19.

“More people are employed today than in the months before the pandemic struck. Employment creation remained positive as 234,000 more Filipinos were able to find work in the past month. This brings total employment to 1.3 million above pre-pandemic levels," they said.

They said better employment outcomes in October were driven by the government’s policies that further reopened the economy safely, such as shifting to the alert level system and granular lockdowns from large-area and blanket quarantines and allowing more mobility for vaccinated individuals.

"Credit should also be given to the close collaboration between the private sector and government not only in accelerating the inoculation drive for our people but also in enforcing the minimum health protocols to contain infections," they said.

To further accelerate economic recovery, the economic development cluster has approved a 10-point agenda to shift the country from a pandemic to endemic paradigm.

The 10-point policy agenda covers such areas as metrics; vaccination; health care capacity; economy and mobility; schooling; domestic travel; international travel; digital transformation; pandemic flexibility bill; and medium-term preparation for pandemic resilience.

They said the government and the private sector have shown their ability to administer vaccines on a wide scale. As of Dec. 5, a total of 91.8 million doses have been rolled out. From Nov. 29 to Dec. 3, the government rolled out around 9.9 million doses on the extended national vaccination days.

"The accelerated vaccination drive will go hand in hand with the government’s efforts in strengthening the country’s health care capacity to avert critical cases and deaths and sustain the safe reopening of the economy amid possible spikes from new variants," they said.  

The labor force participation rate in October 2021 was estimated at 62.6 percent, translating to 47.33 million who are either employed or unemployed. This is higher than the LFPR reported in the same quarter last year at 58.7 percent but lower than the September 2021 LFPR at 63.3 percent.

In terms of magnitude, there was a year-on-year increment of 3.68 million individuals in the labor force from the 43.65 million in October 2020.

The average weekly hours worked of an employed person reduced to 39.7 hours per week in October 2021 from 40.8 hours per week in October 2020. This was also lower than the 41.8 hours per week in July 2021.

In October 2021, employed persons reported to have worked less than 40 hours in a week was estimated at 36.6 percent, higher than the 30.6 percent in July 2021. On the other hand, employed persons who worked 40 hours and over was estimated at 62.4 percent in October 2021.

The underemployment rate or employed persons who expressed desire to have additional hours of work in their present job or to have an additional job, or to have a new job with longer hours of work was registered at 16.1 percent in October 2021. This was lower than the 20.9 percent reported in July 2021 but higher than the October 2020 estimate of 14.4 percent.

In terms of year-on-year change, the top five sub-sectors with the highest increase on the number of employed persons from October 2020 to October 2021 were the wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor and motorcycles (1.32 million); agriculture and fishery (990,000); manufacturing (297,000); public administration and defense, compulsory social security (287,000); other service activities (239,000).

Rebounding from a deep contraction in 2020, the Philippine economy is forecast to grow 5.3 percent this year before accelerating to an average of 5.8 percent in 2022-23 on the road to recovery, according to the Philippines Economic Update (PEU) released Tuesday by the World Bank.

Government spending on infrastructure is expected to buoy growth, aided by the steady progress in vaccination leading to greater people mobility and the revival of businesses. Barring a new uptick in COVID-19 cases, household consumption is projected to recover, anchored on rising remittances and improving incomes as more people regain or find new jobs, the report said.

“The new variant has added a layer of uncertainty but economic reopening, along with progress in vaccination, is clearly strengthening domestic dynamism and market confidence,” said Ndiame

Diop, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand.

“As the recovery gains traction, it will be important to enhance private sector participation in the recovery by deepening current efforts to make the country’s business environment favorable to job creation while upskilling the workers so that they can benefit from new or emerging job opportunities.”

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