By Czeriza Valencia, June 6 2019; Philippine Star

Image Credit to Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Unemployment eased in April due to the robust growth in hirings in the services sector during the election season, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said yesterday.

Results of the April 2019 round of the Philippine Statistics Authority’s Labor Force Survey showed the unemployment rate went down to 5.1 percent from 5.5 percent a year earlier.

The labor force – comprising members of the population aged 15 and above – grew to 72.54 million from 71.02 million in the same month last year.

The number of Filipinos opting into the workforce also increased as seen in the rise in the labor force participation rate to 61.4 percent in April 2019 from 60.9 percent in April 2018.

There were also more Filipinos gainfully employed during the period as seen in the rise in the employment rate to 94.9 percent in April 2019 from 94.5 percent in April 2018. This translates to 42.2 million Filipinos with jobs.

The number of those who are employed but are seeking more work hours have also decreased as seen in the lowering of the underemployment rate to 13.5 percent in April 2019 from 17 percent last year.

National Statistician Dennis Mapa said the reduction in the unemployment rate entailed trimming the ranks of the unemployed by 74,000 Filipinos.

The easing in the underemployment rate, meanwhile, means 1.226 million Filipinos are no longer working part time.

He noted that among regions, employment growth was fastest in Cordillera Administrative Region, Cagayan Valley, Davao Region and Caraga.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the results reflect a “vibrant labor market.”

“The April 2019 round of the LFS reflected an upbeat labor market, where unemployment rate was at a low 5.1 percent and underemployment rate at 13.5 percent; these, even with the slight uptick in labor force participation,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.

The services sector, which comprised 58.5 percent of the country’s total employment, was the biggest contributor in terms of additional employment amid a more bullish business outlook in the second quarter of 2019.

“The expansion may be attributed to increased business activities in line with the campaign period for the Philippine midterm elections. Adding to this is the increase in consumer demand during summer and harvest seasons,” Pernia said.

Despite the improvement in employment figures, Pernia said the unemployment and underemployment rates need to be lowered further to meet the Philippine Development Plan targets by 2022.

“Both quality and quantity of work need to be addressed. At the same time that employment opportunities are being increased, workers and jobseekers must be enabled to improve their knowledge and skills through training and education,” said Pernia.

Government programs, which include the Government Internship Program, JobStart Philippines Program and apprenticeship, also need to be enhanced to strengthen the labor market.

Pernia also highlighted the need for a more comprehensive income protection program through a strict enforcement of work safety regulations and unemployment insurance to protect workers from unsafe working conditions and economic disruptions.