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January jobless rate slows to 2-year low as workforce shrinks

The country’s jobless rate eased to two-year low as the size of the Filipino workforce decreased amid the Omicron-driven movement restrictions in January.


Preliminary results of the Philippine Statistics Authority’s January round of the Labor Force Survey showed unemployment rate eased to 6.4% from 6.6% in December and 8.8% in January last year.


This was the lowest share of the jobless to the total labor force in two years or since the 5.3% in January 2020.


In absolute terms, the number of unemployed Filipinos decreased by 347,000 to 2.925 million in January, from 3.272 million in December.


“However, due to the Omicron surge in January, the labor force participation rate fell from 65.1% to 60.5%,” the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said in a statement.


“Another reason for lower employment levels is the end of the holiday season which shed off seasonal jobs. Despite this, net employment remains at 0.5 million above the pre-pandemic level,” it added.


Metro Manila and various areas were put into strict Alert Level 3 in January to contain the surge in new infections brought by the more contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus disease 2019.


It was downgraded to Alert Level 2 in February then to Alert Level 1, the most relaxed setting, starting March.


The size of the labor force in January went down month on month by 3.603 million to 45.943 million. This translated to a labor force participation rate — the of the total labor stock to the working age population of 15 years old and over — of 60.5%. This was the lowest level in six months or since a workforce size of 44.740 million and an LFPR of 59.8% in July last year.


The employment rate — the share of the employed to the total working force — increased to 93.6%, higher than December’s 93.4%. With the lower level of labor force that month, employed Filipinos reached 43.018 million, lower by 3.256 million month on month from December’s 46.274 million.


The quality of available jobs slightly worsened as the underemployment rate — the proportion of those already working, but still looking for more work or longer working hours to the total employed — rose to six-month high of 14.9% in January from 14.7% in December.


This was equivalent to 6.397 million underemployed Filipinos, down by 414,000 from December’s 6.811 million.


A Filipino worker clocked in an average of 41.8 hours per week in January, 2.1 hours more than 39.7 hours in a week in December.


More than half were employed in the services sector in January, while agriculture accounted for 24.4% and industry, 18.4%


Source: BusinessWorld

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