7.3 million Filipinos jobless in April amid COVID-19 pandemic – PSA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 5) – The COVID-19 pandemic rendered more Filipinos jobless, with the Philippine Statistics Authority reporting 7.3 million unemployed adults in April.

The PSA reported Friday a 17.7 percent unemployment rate, an all-time high. The figure rose from 5.3 percent in January and 5.1 percent a year ago, which meant an additional 5 million people without work.

"This is a record high in the unemployment rate reflecting the effects of the economic shutdown to the Philippine labor market due to COVID-19," National Statistician Claire Dennis Mapa said. Two-thirds of the unemployed are males while the rest are females.

Two-thirds of laborers in the country depend on salaries and wages, while 28.7 percent are considered self-employed, rendering professional services or operating their own businesses.

PSA data also showed that 13 million Filipinos had jobs but were not able to report to work, representing 38.4 percent. Nearly all of them attributed this disruption to COVID-19 regulations.

READ: DOLE estimates 10 million workers will lose jobs this year due to COVID-19 pandemic

The Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation sector saw the biggest drop, with the number of employed workers slashed by 54 percent as movie and television productions had to stop operations.

This is followed by a 43.1 percent decrease in workers in electricity, gas, steam, and airconditioning supply, a 40.6 percent drop for information and communication firms, and 35.8 percent decline for accommodation and food service activities. The construction industry also saw employees cut by a third. These sectors were restricted during the first few weeks of the lockdown.

Nearly half or 48.8 percent work in the services sector, a third are agriculture workers, and 17.4 percent are industrial employees.

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The number of Filipinos with jobs fell to 33.8 million, representing 82.3 percent of the market. This is a marked drop from 94.7 percent at the start of the year. Meanwhile, nearly a fifth of workers considered themselves underemployed, or those who want longer hours or better job opportunities.

ING Bank Senior Economist Nicholas Mapa added that the figure now includes thousands of overseas Filipino workers – who send home billions of dollars monthly. Many have returned to the country, leaving their families with little funds.

"No salary, no consumption. No consumption, no growth," Mapa said in a market commentary, hinting that the economy will shrink even deeper this quarter after a 0.2 percent contraction the first three months of the year.

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"The scores of unemployed and the prospects of even higher number of Filipinos out of work should be more than enough proof that the fiscal response should be sizable and should be implemented at the soonest," he added, noting that Congress' stimulus programs will be the key to economic recovery and the revival of the job market.

April represented a full month of lockdown of Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon as government sought to contain COVID-19 infections.

Strict stay-at-home rules were in place, with most business operations shut down. Those who can work from home were allowed to, but casual workers were forced to a "no work, no pay" scheme since mid-March.

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People also worked shorter hours, with the average down to 35 hours in April from 41.8 hours a year ago. The regular work week is usually 40 hours.

The government encouraged alternative work arrangements during the period, such as work-from-home, taking shifts, and four-day workweeks to limit exposure to the virus.

All regions logged double-digit unemployment rate, with the highest tallied in the Bangsamoro region at 29.8 percent.

Labor groups denounced the unemployment surge recorded for the month, saying the lockdown rules coupled with "inept" state policies cost millions of workers their livelihood.