The unemployment rate in the country improved to 8.7 percent in October from 10 percent in July and 17.6 percent in April as the government allowed more economic activities to resume despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippine Statistics Authority said Thursday.
Economic Planning Secretary and National Economic and Development Authority Director-General Karl Kendrick Chua said the latest results of the quarterly Labor Force Survey showed further signs of recovery.
“This improvement in the unemployment rate was driven by the reopening of the economy and it could have been lower if the economy were opened further, coupled with the provision of safe and sufficient public transport,” Chua said in a statement.
The PSA said about 3.8 million Filipinos were unemployed in October, down from 4.57 million in July and 7.23 million in April. However, it was higher than the 2 million jobless individuals in October 2019 when the unemployment rate settled at 4.6 percent.
He said that while there were 800,000 fewer unemployed workers in October compared to the July survey, the labor force participation rate declined to 58.7 percent in October from 61.9 percent in July, resulting in a net employment reduction during the period.
The PSA said the lower labor force participation was led by a number of factors, including higher remittances and the opening of school with parents shifting from work to accompanying younger children in blended learning from home.
“The country was also hit by a succession of four typhoons in October alongside the monsoon and La Niña, resulting in significant employment loss in agriculture,” Chua said.
NEDA said that in the latter half of October, the country was hit by a string of destructive typhoons that reduced agriculture employment by 1.1 million, or about 70 percent of the 1.5 million jobs lost between July and October 2020.
Workers in the provinces also faced difficulty in returning to work given the inter-province transport restrictions, which contributed to the 500,000 jobs lost in the industry sector.
The employment loss was tempered by the services sector, which recorded a gain of 300,000 in employment relative to July 2020, as it benefitted from the increased operational capacity and further relaxation of quarantine restrictions.
Meanwhile, the underemployment rate improved to 14.4 percent in October from 17.3 percent in July and 18.9 percent in April.
“Decreasing underemployment means that the quality of jobs is improving. This proximity to normalcy means that the informal sector is performing and the impact on poverty may be less severe than initially estimated,” Chua said.
Chua cited the Senate’s recent approval of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises bill which would provide relief especially for MSMEs which comprise 99 percent of firms in the Philippines and employ about 60 percent of working Filipinos.
“The swift passage and implementation of CREATE, together with the 2021 General Appropriations Act, the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer Act and the Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiative to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery Act will all contribute to rebuilding the economy and helping Filipinos and businesses get back on their feet,” he said.
Chua said the Labor Force Survey results support the need to manage risks more and further open the economy safely to restore jobs and economic activities, he said.
A Palace spokesman, meanwhile, said domestic travel amid the prevailing pandemic may help lower the country’s unemployment rate.
In a press briefing from Palawan, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Palace was saddened by the unemployment figures but noted that this is precisely why the government is pushing domestic travel to support the tourism industry workers and businesses.
Since there is a need to balance health and economy, he said travelers should learn to live with the virus while waiting for a vaccine to be available in the market.
Roque has been traveling around the country to promote domestic travel using his own funds.
In October, he visited Boracay, Aklan, and Panglao, Bohol.
“It’s mostly my personal funds, no kidding. Because I only have P800,000 budget since my predecessor obtained his budget and was using his budget from his other office,” he said.
Boracay, Baguio, and Siargao are currently open to local tourists with certain requirements such as the “test-before-travel” rule.
Palawan currently allows tourists under a “travel bubble” while Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur are open to tourists from Luzon.
Bohol plans to welcome travelers by the second week of December.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Thursday encouraged displaced tourism workers to avail of the financial assistance and the emergency employment program of the government.
Workers in the tourism sector may apply for COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) and Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) Program, the department said.
Covered by CAMP are tourism industry workers, such as tour guides and service staff.
Under the program, displaced formal sector workers are entitled to receive a one-time financial aid amounting to P5,000. With Joel E. Zurbano
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