Preparations for the holidays boosted the country’s employment numbers and brought down unemployment to its lowest level in nearly two decades, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
Based on the results of the Labor Force Survey (LFS), the country’s employment rate reached 95.8 percent in November 2022, reaching 49.71 million employed Filipinos. The unemployment rate slowed to 4.2 percent with 2.18 million unemployed in November 2022.
The employment and unemployment rates were the highest in 17 years or since April 2005 when the government adopted the International Labor Organization’s (ILO’s) employment definitions.
“Yung economic activities related to the holidays, that’s expected during the last quarter [and] employment in family-owned establishments tumaas, so ito yung nag-hire sila ng workers or additional family members are being asked to help. So these are usual during the holidays,” National Statistician Claire Dennis S. Mapa said in a briefing on Friday.
Based on PSA data, new entrants to the labor force increased year on year by 1.24 million in November 2022 and 54,000 compared to October 2022.
Mapa explained that the increase in new entrants and employment as well as the decline in unemployment was driven by Christmas-related activities.
These activities included pre-Christmas bazaars, midnight sales or night markets and the extension of mall hours, among others that required extra hands.
However, given the seasonality of these developments, Mapa said, this trend may continue only until December but slow start in the beginning of 2023. Some firms, Mapa said, may offer more permanent positions to workers but not all of them will be absorbed.
“We expect this until December but by January, there could already be a decline [in this trend],” Mapa told the BusinessMirror on the sidelines of the news briefing on Friday.
The increase in employment owing to holiday preparations is also reflected in the increase in underemployment. The country’s underemployment rate stood at 14.4 percent in November.
However, a total of 7.16 million Filipinos were considered underemployed. This is 488,000 more underemployed compared to October 2022, but 457,000 less than the underemployed in November 2021.
The data showed visible underemployment increased by 392,000 to 4.639 million from the 4.247 million recorded in October 2022. However, the November 2022 data was 604,000 less compared to November 2021.
The PSA said there were 2.522 million Filipinos who were considered invisibly underemployed. This was a year on year increase of 147,000 compared to November 2021 and 96,000 from October 2022.
Filipinos who are visibly underemployed are those working less than 40 hours in a week and expressed the desire to have additional hours of work in their present job or to have additional jobs.
Those who are considered in invisibly underemployed are those working at least 40 hours in a week but still 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 longer working hours.
“Creating an enabling environment to attract investments that can create more and high-quality employment, while improving the employability of Filipinos are among the major strategies to advance economic and social transformation,” National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said.
Balisacan added that measures to attract investments include the upgrading and expanding of infrastructure, and improving regulatory and bureaucratic efficiency.
The new Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2023-2028, released on December 31, 2022, also outlines key strategies to increase the income-earning ability of Filipinos.
These include expanding opportunities for life-long learning, training and retraining programs, and developing the adaptability of the current and future workforce to the changing demands of the labor market.
The PDP also includes strategies to enhance labor market information systems and employment facilitation services.
“The strategies of the PDP 2023-2028 intend to reinvigorate job creation, particularly high-quality jobs. Expanding our pool of high-quality work force will also support our goal of economic and social transformation to accelerate economic recovery and ensure that it will be inclusive and resilient. This thrust then brings us back on track in empowering every Filipino to have a “matatag, maginhawa at panatag na buhay,” Balisacan explained.
The Neda also said the labor force participation rate rose to 67.5 percent in November 2022 from 64.2 percent in the same month last year.
An additional 3.2 million Filipinos, of whom 2.5 million are women, entered the labor force. This development increased women’s labor force participation to 57.8 percent from 52.2 percent last year.