The unemployment rate dropped from 7.4 percent in October to 6.5 percent in November, the lowest since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the country, as the economy reopened toward greater normalcy and put more people back to work, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show.
The PSA said the November figure was the lowest since January 2021. The second lowest was in July 2021 at 6.9 percent, followed by 7.1 percent in March 2021 at 7.1 percent. The unemployment rate was highest in the September 2021 at 8.9 percent.
The PSA said the number of unemployed persons in November in terms of magnitude reached 3.16 million, lower by 345,000 than 3.50 million recorded in October.
“The country’s employment rate picked up in November 2021 to 93.5 percent, the highest reported since the start of 2021. This was equivalent to 45.48 million employed persons. In October, it was 43.83 million, and in September, 43.59 million,” the PSA said.
Underemployment rate, or the proportion of the underemployed to the total employed, was registered at 16.7 percent, higher than the October estimate of 16.1 percent, but lower than the 20.9 percent reported in July 2021.
Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate in November was estimated at 64.2 percent, translating into 48.64 million individuals aged 15 years old and above who were either employed or unemployed. This rate was higher than the LFPR reported from January to October, except in March and June 2021, which were both at 65.0 percent, and May 2021 (64.6 percent).
By broad industry group, the services sector dominated all sectors having the largest share of employed persons with 58.1 percent. The agriculture and the industry sectors contributed 24.5 percent and 17.4 percent of the employed persons, respectively.
ING Bank Manila senior economist Nicholas Antonio Mapa said the lower restrictions put more people back to work in November 2021.
“Economic reopening helped generate job. However, job quality was wanting. Underemployment rose to 16.7 percent from 16.1 percent while work hours fell. Lower quarantine restrictions allowed firms to hire more workers but at shorter shifts,” Mapa said.
Mapa said a decent “headway” was made in the past few months as the economy gradually reopened. “However the current level of employment is still well below the pre-COVID unemployment average [of 5.5 percent].”
Alert level in Metro Manila was eased to 2 from 3 on Nov. 5, 2021 and nationwide in the latter part of the month when senior citizens and minors were finally allowed to go out of their homes after more than one and a half years.
Many businesses industries were allowed to operate at much higher capacity and some industries hit hard since the pandemic started were allowed to operate again.
Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. chief economist Michael Ricafort said the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases after the holiday season to new three-month highs resulted in higher Alert Level 3 from 2 for Metro Manila and other cities and provinces since early January 2022 until Jan. 15, 2022.
Ricafort said this “could lead to some soft patch on employment data that could lead to some slight pick-up in unemployment rate especially in January 2022.”
“Accordingly, unemployment rate could still hover at the 6 percent-7 percent levels in the coming months especially in the December 2021 data to reflect the Christmas holiday season and in view of the easing of the recent lockdowns and the shift towards smaller scale/granular lockdowns, especially if new COVID-19 local cases start to ease further [after the increase/resurgence since early January 2022] amid increased vaccination,” Ricafort said.