• Melo Acuna

With the economy's reopening, unemployment figures ease

Unemployment improves in July

MANILA – The government’s economic managers disclosed the labor market has improved as revealed in the Labor Force Survey conducted last July. At the same time, they said the executive and other government agencies need to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the National Economic and Development Authority said the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on their Labor Force Survey (LFS) last July record a 7.5 million increase in employment compared to April as subsectors showed gains except for arts, entertainment, and recreation. The 17 regions reported employment improvements from the previous quarter.

According to the report, employment in agriculture and forestry increased by 2.1 million from April, with higher agriculture output. The industry sector which includes construction had an increase of 1.2 million employed with the resumption of the “Build, Build, Build” program and other construction activities and in manufacturing with 671,000 additional employment.

NEDA said the July figures showed a direct link between the level of quarantine restriction and labor market outcomes. During the first half of May 2020, over three-fourths of the economy was placed under ECQ. As a result, GDP and unemployment worsened to record levels. However, during the first 15 days of July 2020, only 2.1 percent of the economy was placed under ECQ. The result is a significant reduction in the unemployment rate and the return of some 7.5 million jobs.

The underemployment rate improved to 17.3 percent in July from 18.9 percent in April with the increase in underemployed workers was outpaced by the overall increase in employment.

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendric Chua said with the easing of quarantine restrictions around the country, he called on the general public to observe social distancing protocols and the need to abide by local ordinances and wearing of personal protective equipment such as face masks because these remain important to reduce the risks of spreading the virus.

He expressed optimism that better GDP and job numbers will depend on how open the economy would be. Je said a better strategy would be known as “Prevent, Detect, Isolate Treat and Recover (PDITR) which would require a safe and sufficient number of public transportation which may require service contract subsidies.

“Without the public transport system back sufficiently, many people cannot go back to work. To illustrate, under GCQ, the share of the NCR economy that is allowed to open is 58.2 percent, but without sufficient public transport, it falls to 35.5 percent,” he further said.

He said with the eventual approval of Bayanihan II, it would mobilize much needed resources to provide relief and assistance to households and business workers, communities and companies, with the continuation of temporary employment programs, cash subsidies, extended grace periods, and financing for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Acting Secretary Chua added the programs will be supported with bills called GUIDE, FIST and CREATE now pending before both Houses of Congress. The 2021 budget will be sufficient to support the recovery and resiliency program, he explained.

The government’s centerpiece program known as “Build, Build, Build” is expected to accelerate countryside development, regional connectivity and job generation. From 4.2 percent of GDP in 2020, infrastructure spending will improve to 5.4 percent of GDP in 2021 creating some 1.1 million full-time equivalent jobs, with a multiplier of around 2, will boost the country’s goal of 6.5 to 7.5 percent GDP growth target next year.

“Through our collective efforts, I believe that we will be able to recover as one, come out stronger, more resilient, and become better as a country and as individuals,” he concluded. (Melo M. Acuña)

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendric Chua. (Screen grab from Labor Force Survey Press Briefing)

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