MANILA – Improvements were seen in the number of people who were able to recover their jobs or earn a living as more of the economy was gradually reopened late last year and in early 2021, according to the country’s economic managers.

The Philippine government’s economic managers, consisting of Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez, and Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado, said in their official joint statement that the results of the latest labor force survey (LFS) show continued improvements in the economy.

“This has helped a great majority of our people address hunger and allot resources to meet their basic needs, including healthcare and education,” the joint statement read.

Although the unemployment rate marginally increased to 8.8 percent in February 2021 from 8.7 percent in January 2021, the gradual reopening of the economy allowed more people to re-join the labor force.

The labor force participation rate, or the proportion of the working age population that is either working or actively looking for work, increased from 60.5 percent in January 2021 to 63.5 percent in February 2021.

“As a result, some 1.9 million jobs were restored, translating to an overall employment level of 43.2 million in February 2021. This means we have surpassed our pre-pandemic employment level of 42.6 million in January 2020,” the economic managers added.

Meanwhile, the underemployment rate increased from 16.0 percent to 18.2 percent in the same period. This indicates that income is limited due to quarantine restrictions.

Reflecting the sectors of the economy that were opened further, the following sectors showed the most improvement in job creation: i) services at 1.6 million, of which 1 million are from wholesale and retail trade, ii) agriculture at 259,000, and iii) industry at 46,000.

The statement added that this trend signals rising economic activity. Over the past year, employment figures showed the sensitivity of the labor market to the level of community quarantines that were imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“Around 8.7 million jobs were lost when we imposed the strictest quarantine from March to May 2020. As we carefully relaxed our restrictions, more jobs were gradually restored and the total number of jobs created since April last year at 9.3 million led to employment exceeding pre-COVID levels in February 2021,” the economic managers said.

However, with the sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 cases this month, the government has imposed the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila and the adjacent provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, collectively called the “NCR Plus” bubble, from March 24 to April 4.

The economic managers emphasized in their statement that this decision was arrived at after a careful analysis of the cost and benefit of the week-long ECQ on the people.

“We assure the Filipino people that the Duterte administration will not squander this opportunity to slow down the spread of the virus and recalibrate our COVID-19 response strategies,” the statement read.

The statement also explained that the LFS, which has been conducted on a quarterly basis since 1987, is now conducted on a monthly basis starting February 2021 in order to provide more timely statistics to guide urgent and responsive policymaking.

“We will continue to monitor closely and assess the health and economic data as they come in order for us to deliver timely interventions and provide better opportunities for the people, especially the poor, amid this prolonged health crisis,” the economic managers added.


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