THE Philippine job market lost some momentum in July as unemployment slightly worsened from a year earlier, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Tuesday.
Results of the latest Labor Force Survey (LFS) put the jobless rate at 5.6 percent for the month from 5.4 percent in 2016. This translates to 2.37 million Filipinos without work compared with 2.33 million in July last year.
“Of the total unemployed, the age group 15 to 24 years comprised 49.3 percent … the age group 25 to 34, 29.7 percent,” the PSA said.
“By educational attainment, 21.3 percent of the unemployed were college graduates, 14.5 percent were college undergraduates and 33.1 percent … completed junior high school,” it added.
Philstocks.ph senior research analyst Justino Calaycay Jr. said several factors likely contributed.
“First, it be could a function of higher labor participation rate, which could include those who graduated last March, and the displacement of some cyclical, seasonal jobs,” he said.
“Second, there could be a slowdown in actual hiring,” he said.
“Regardless of the cause, however, it is a problem that needs to be addressed and nipped at the bud.”
Calaycay said the results ran counter to the government’s claim that it had created millions of jobs during its first year in office.
“A rising number of unemployed puts pressure on our social services as well, so its impact isn’t limited to just the number of workers unable to land the jobs they want,” he pointed out.
Consequently, the employment rate in June declined to 94.4 percent from 94.6 percent a year earlier. This translated to 40.17 million employed Filipinos, down from 40.94 million in July 2016.
The National Economic and Development Authority attributed this to a drop in the labor force and significant job losses in the agriculture and service sectors.
“The manufacturing and construction sectors have recorded job growth. But the widespread employment losses in the agriculture and services more than offset these gains,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said.
He noted that the agriculture sector recorded the heaviest employment loss of 9.2 percent.
Service sub-sectors that recorded employment losses were consistent with the establishments and industries being closely watched by the government under the Labor Law Compliance System, he said.
“The recent changes in labor policies regarding contractual workers may have had a perverse effect on firms’ hiring decision,” Pernia said.
Underemployment, which refers to the proportion of persons seeking more work, dropped to its lowest in over a decade at 16.3 percent.
A year earlier it stood at 17.3 percent. Data showed there were 549,000 fewer underemployed workers in July compared with last year.
The NEDA said short-term employment had increased with the bulk of jobs coming from industry, particularly in construction and manufacturing.
NEDA vows improvement
Given the employment losses, the NEDA called for the adoption of reforms.
“The overall job market contraction in July followed a trend that began in the first round of the LFS in January this year. But despite this slight contraction, the nation’s underemployment dropped to its lowest in more than a decade at 16.3 percent,” Pernia said.
He said the government was concerned and vowed to improve the situation.
“For one, the ‘Build Build Build’ program … is expected to open the roads for more jobs and generate significant activity in the domestic economy. With some of the government’s 75 flagship projects commencing soon, around 1.1 million new jobs will be created every year,” Pernia claimed.
In addition, he said that continued implementation of the K-to-12 program would increase the productivity of the country’s future workforce.
Increased access to technical and vocational training programs will also help laborers upgrade their skills and find more employment options, he said.