The unemployment rate in March 2023 declined to 4.7 percent from 5.8 percent a year ago and 4.8 percent in February, translating to 2.42 million jobless Filipinos out of 51 million who were in the labor force during the period, the Philippine Statistics Authority said Monday.
The country’s employment rate in March rose to 95.3 percent from the reported employment rate in the same month last year at 94.2 percent and in the previous month at 95.2 percent.
In terms of magnitude, the number of employed persons in March was estimated at 48.58 million, an increase of 1.61 million from the 46.98 million employed persons in March 2022.
The Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) was registered at 66 percent in March 2023, which was higher than the 65.4 percent LFPR in March last year but lower than the 66.6 percent LFPR reported in February 2023.
Underemployment rate in March went down to 11.2 percent from 15.8 percent in the same month last year and 12.9 percent in February 2023. This was the lowest unemployment rate reported since April 2005.
The reported underemployment rate was equivalent to 5.44 million persons who expressed the desire to have additional hours of work in their present job or to have additional job, or to have a new job with long hours of work.
The average weekly hours worked by an employed person in March 2023 was estimated at 40 hours per week. This was slightly lower than the average weekly hours worked in March 2022 at 40.6 hours but higher than the estimate in February 2023 of 39.5 hours.
Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the government is addressing persistent issues and constraints to improving labor productivity and high-quality job generation.
“Passing major economic liberalization reforms is a critical first step. However, in a region where our neighbors are also aggressively competing for investments, we must leverage on these changes to the country’s policy regime by ensuring that we urgently address on-the-ground concerns related to the ease of doing business,” he said.
“Investors must not be kept waiting – we must create an enabling regulatory environment that makes it easy for them to set up shop, expand, and generate the high-quality jobs we need,” he said.
National Statistician and Undersecretary Dennis Mapa said the quality of jobs has also improved as seen in the reduction of underemployment. “The good thing here is that if we look at the class of workers in terms of the quality of jobs, a large part of the 1.98 million, around 872,000 were wage and salary workers. This means that in this category, they used to be underemployed, but now they don’t say they are underemployed,” Mapa said.
“Here we see that employment has risen, underemployment has fallen, and the contribution of the category of salary and wage earners is quite substantial, in particular those employed under private establishments,” he added.
Balisacan further said establishing a dynamic innovation ecosystem that encourages businesses to introduce new products and processes to the market is also expected to create better-paying job opportunities in higher value-added industries.
Also crucial will be collaboration among government agencies, training institutions, technology providers, and other stakeholders to explore and utilize new technologies toward upskilling and reskilling on digital technology and innovations, as embodied in the Philippine Digital Workforce Competitiveness Act (RA 11927).
By broad industry group, the services sector remained as the top employment hub, with a share of 59.0 percent of the total employed population in March 2023. The agriculture and industry sectors accounted for 23.5 percent and 17.5 percent of the total employed persons, respectively.
The year-on-year increase in employment was driven by services and industry sectors. The top five sub-sectors with highest year-on-year increase in the number of employed in March 2023 were transportation and storage (533,000); accommodation and food service activities (447,000); wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (407,000); construction (384,000); and other service activities (344,000).
In contrast, the top five sub-sectors with the largest drop in the number of employed persons from March 2022 to March 2023 were agriculture and forestry (-607,000); financial and insurance activities (-156,000); manufacturing (-136,000); human health and social work activities (-130,000); and information and communication (-78,000).
Government data show the country’s unemployment rate averaged 8.59 percent from 1986 until 2022, reaching an all-time high of 17.60 percent in June of 2020 at the height of the strict lockdowns during the pandemic.