3.8M Filipinos unemployed in October as some jobs restored, ​but still far from full recovery – PSA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 3) — More Filipinos found jobs in October as the economy reopened after previous COVID-19 lockdowns, the Philippine Statistics Authority said Thursday.

The PSA reported an 8.7% unemployment rate among residents aged 15 and up, easing from 10% in July but still worse than October 2019's 4.6% level. This translated to about 3.8 million people still out of work although better than the 4.6 million tallied three months ago, representing a gain of about 760,000 jobs.

Some 1.8 million jobs were lost compared to a year ago, data from the latest Labor Force Survey showed. Fewer people were also looking for jobs this year at 43.6 million versus 44.6 million last year.

Unemployment is on a steady downtrend after hitting an all-time high of 17.7% or 7.2 million back in April, or a month into the Luzon-wide lockdown. ​Year-to-date, joblessness averaged 10.4% –– the highest since earliest records in 2005.

The economy is "on the mend," the economic team claimed after it contracted at a slower pace of 11.5% in the third quarter coming from a record 16.9% fall in April-June.

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Barriers remain

Despite the relaxed restrictions, 1 million adults still said that they could not report to duty. Some 38.2% of respondents blamed lockdowns and strict quarantine rules due to the COVID-19 pandemic for keeping them away from work, representing a sharp drop from July when 80.8% cited this reason.

"As we observed, ang nakikita pa rin nating rason dito ay 'yung lack of transportation. Ever since nagkaroon tayo ng lockdown mula April, mataas ang ating NCR unemployment rate," National Statistician Dennis Mapa said in a briefing.

[Translation: As we observed, we still see the lack of transportation as the main reason. Ever since we had the lockdowns since April, we've seen a higher unemployment rate in NCR.]

October saw authorities raise the capacity of mass transport by allowing a one-seat apart rule for commuters. More industries have been cleared to reopen, including tourism, while those earlier authorized to resume business were allowed to accept more customers.

Meanwhile, 5.7 million people were underemployed, or those who want to work more hours and earn more money. This represents 14.4% of the labor force, up from 12.8% last year although better than the past two quarters.

By location, unemployment was again worst in Metro Manila at 12.4%, although slightly better than 15.8% the previous survey period. The 706,000 unemployed in the region accounts for nearly 15% of the nationwide tally.

Employment generally improved across regions, but worsened in Ilocos, Mimaropa, Zamboanga Peninsula, and Caraga.

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By sex, more women opted out of joining the labor force, as only 45% female adults were looking for or secured a job during the period. Among men, 72.3% wanted to work.

Women reported a slightly higher unemployment rate of 8.9% versus the 8.7% among men, but more male laborers were underemployed at 15.9% compared to 12% of female workers.

Gainers and losers

Across industries, the arts, entertainment and recreation segment tallied a 38.2% drop in employment, shedding some 132,000 jobs. Opportunities within the accommodation and food service segment shrank by a third, while property-related work lost one-fourth of available jobs compared to last year. Other major losers were workers in transportation and storage, as well as manufacturing, PSA said.

On the other hand, most of the restored job opportunities were in water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation; fishing and aquaculture; education; information and communication; and administrative and support services.

READ: 600,000 garment workers in PH may face unemployment due to pandemic — UN agency

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Malacañang is saddened by the news, noting that future moves to ease restrictions will be balanced with health and safety standards.

The National Economic and Development Authority said more people may find work if the economy is opened further and public transport will be sufficient. Acting Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua added that the impact of typhoons Niko, Ofel, Pepito, and Quinta in late October made it harder for people to return to their jobs, especially farmers and agriculture workers.

Despite the improving numbers, labor groups said it was no reason to celebrate.

"As the economy reopened and businesses resumed their operations, the minimal increase of Filipino workers who have returned to work only shows that millions more are suffering the deep impacts of their lost jobs and are needing support from the government," Defend Jobs Philippines spokesperson Christian Lloyd Magsoy said in a statement.

The Associated Labor Unions-TUCP said the government "must take the lead in providing more jobs through aggressive infrastructure spending which employs Filipinos."

RELATED: Pandemic may keep more Filipinos poor, jobless until next year