Joblessness rate falls to lowest in nearly 2 years this March, but underemployment up

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 6) — The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said Thursday the number of Filipinos out of work fell to 2.87 million in March, yielding the lowest joblessness rate since the pandemic began. However, more joined the ranks of the underemployed.

The PSA reported an unemployment rate of 5.8% for March, the lowest since the record-high 17.6% logged in April 2020. More areas, including Metro Manila, were placed under Alert Level 1 in March.

Among the major sectors, construction shed the most jobs on month-on-month basis at 200,000. Next came accommodation and food service activities, transportation and storage, education, along with professional, scientific, and technical activities.

Despite the lower joblessness figures, underemployment went up in March. PSA chief Dennis Mapa said there were an estimated 7.42 million Filipinos aged 15 and up who sought additional work hours or better job opportunities, surpassing February's 6.38 million.

Agriculture and forestry mainly drove up underemployment during the period, accounting for 764,000 underemployed persons. Wholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicles also contributed to the increase.

Meanwhile, there were 46.98 million employed individuals in March - yielding an employment rate of 94.2%. These improved from February's 45.48 million tally and 93.6% rate.

There were 49.85 million persons in the labor force in March, 1.2 million higher month-on-month. The labor force participation rate was at 65.4%, up from 63.8% in February.

In a statement, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua said the latest figures reflect gains achieved from placing about 70% of the domestic economy under the laxest alert level.

"As we continue to manage the risks, we reiterate our recommendation to shift the entire country to alert level 1 to generate more employment and strengthen the domestic economy against external shocks," said Chua, who heads the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

He reiterated a call for the resumption of face-to-face learning to give future generations better opportunities.

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