By Christine J. S. Castañeda
UNEMPLOYMENT worsened in July, even as the same month saw a marked reduction in the ranks of those wanting more work, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported yesterday.
Results of the July 2017 round of the Labor Force Survey (LFS) which the PSA released yesterday showed the proportion of jobless Filipinos edged up to 5.6% from the year-ago 5.4%.
That was equivalent to 2.37 million Filipinos without jobs, up from 2.34 million the past year.
The same results, however, showed that quality of available jobs may be improving, as underemployment rate — involving those who wanted additional jobs or more hours of work — slipped to 16.3%, which the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said was the lowest “in more than a decade,” from 17.3%.
By age group, those aged 15-24 made up 49.3% of the total unemployed, up from 48.2% in July 2016, while those in the 25- to 34-year-old range comprised 29.7%, also higher than 28.2% previously.
“The rise in unemployment was evident in the 15-24 and 25-34 age groups,” Security Bank Corp. economist Angelo B. Taningco said, noting that “more young individuals have started to join the labor force and are looking for jobs.”
This view was shared by Rene E. Ofreneo, professor at the University of the Philippines School of Labor and Industrial Relations, who said: “Baka nakadagdag din ang mga graduates ng second quarter (Maybe those who graduated in the second quarter added to unemployment).”
The latest data showed an annual labor force participation rate (LFPR) — consisting of economically active people whether employed or unemployed — at 60.6%, equivalent to about 42.5 million, out of the 70.16 million population aged at least 15 years old this year, from July 2016’s 63.3%, or 43.3 million.
Employment rate was at 94.4%, or 40.17 million individuals, slightly less than the 94.6%, or 40.949 million people, recorded in July 2016.
By major economic sector, services accounted for 55.6% of total employed in July, down from 55.4% a year ago. Agriculture, which has historically contributed a tenth to gross domestic product, accounted for 25.2% from the year-ago 26.8%, while industry made up 19.2% from 17.8%.
“The overall job market contraction in July followed a trend that began in the first round of the LFS in January this year,” NEDA quoted its director-general, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia, as saying in a press statement.
“But despite this slight contraction, the nation’s underemployment dropped to its lowest in more than a decade at 16.3%.”
Saying further that “[t]he government is concerned over the loss in employment,” Mr. Pernia noted that while manufacturing and construction both recorded job growth “the widespread employment losses in agriculture and services more than offset these gains,” noting that the farm sector recorded the heaviest employment loss of -9.2% involving 1.03 million jobs.
Mr. Ofreneo attributed the loss of farm jobs to “poor recovery from past neglect, smuggling (e.g., garlic, rice, etc.) and the weather.”
At the same time, Security Bank’s Mr. Taningco noted that “[t]he drop in underemployment solely transpired in the agricultural sector, which has experienced better production activity so far this year given favorable weather conditions, adequate irrigation water and availability of seeds and fertilizers, among others.”
Of the 6.541 million total underemployed — down from 7.09 million in July last year — 33.1% were from the agriculture sector, down from July 2016’s 38.8%.
Another 46.8% were from services, up from the year-ago 42.5%, while 20.1% were from industry, up from 18.6%.