Philippine unemployment rate reaches all-time high in April

08, Jun. 2020

Photo by Yanni Panesa on Unsplash
Photo by Yanni Panesa on Unsplash

MANILA, NNA – The coronavirus pandemic has forced nearly five million Filipinos out of work in April this year, resulting in the worst situation ever in the labor market in Southeast Asia’s high-growth emerging economy.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported on Friday last week the number of unemployed rose 17.7 percent, equivalent to about 7.3 million, in April, a jump from 5.1 percent or 2.3 million jobless in the same month of 2019.

The latest unemployment rate is an historical high, surpassing the 10.3 percent in the 1998 recession in the Philippines, according to the Department of Labor and Employment.

“With the imposition of community quarantine, hundreds of thousands of establishments resorted to temporary closures or flexible work arrangements as evidenced by millions of workers affected both in the formal, informal and overseas sectors,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a statement.

The number of Filipinos participating in the labor market has also dropped to the lowest ever level of 55.6 percent, dropping to 41 million from 44 million in April 2019, the labor department said.

DOLE said new graduates usually hunt for jobs between March and May, the period when the government imposed stringent lockdowns that shut down two-thirds of the economy. It said the lockdowns put the labor market at a standstill as new graduates could not hunt for jobs.

The number of employed dropped across all sectors compared to April 2019, according to the PSA.

The number of Filipinos who were employed but are not at work is estimated at 13 million, or 38.4 percent of the total workforce, up from just 1.1 percent in the same month of the previous year.

Aside from the domestic loss of jobs, more than 343,000 of the Overseas Filipino Workers have also returned home after either losing their jobs due to lockdowns abroad or having contracted the new coronavirus disease, the labor department said in a briefing last Tuesday. Thousands more are expected to arrive in the coming months.

Michael Ricafort, an economist at the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., told NNA he sees the unemployment rate going up further this month due to the extension of the lockdown. He also noted the entry of new graduates could also push up the country’s jobless rate.

“Thus there may be a further need for programs to provide employment opportunities for the new entrants in the local job market,” he said.

Ricafort expects the employment figures to recover from July as business activities gradually resume.

Acting socioeconomic planning secretary Karl Kendrick Chua believes the country’s “prospects” are favorable given that around 75 percent of the economy has already opened up, and as the government improves the country’s healthcare system.

“But again, that depends on how fast we can proactively implement the recovery program and also the cooperation of the people in maintaining minimum health standards,” he said.

To address the expected massive job displacement, the government said the acceleration of its flagship infrastructure project called “Build, Build, Build” would help employ thousands of Filipinos who lost their jobs, especially OFWs, many of whom are construction workers.

The Philippine congress has also been deliberating a 1.3 trillion peso ($26 billion) economic stimulus package bill to help businesses recover and to provide jobs to thousands of displaced workers, among others.