MANILA, PHILIPPINES – December saw slightly more Filipinos without jobs despite more relaxed COVID-19 restrictions in time for the holidays, leading to a full-year tally still higher than pre-pandemic levels.
The Philippine Statistics Authority estimates 3.27 million people aged 15 and up were unemployed during the month — more than November’s 3.16 million. This means the national joblessness rate stood at 6.6% in December, slightly up from 6.5% in the previous month.
PSA chief Dennis Mapa on Thursday said this is because while more people participated in the labor force in December, not all of them were able to find jobs. There were 49.55 million individuals in the labor force during the month, up from 48.64 million in November.
The recent figure brought the full-year jobless tally to 3.7 million in 2021. While this is slightly lower than 4.5 million in 2020, it is still a far cry from the 2.26 million recorded in pre-pandemic 2019.
Mapa said the annual unemployment rate last year stood at 7.8%, compared to 10% in 2020 and 5.1% in 2019.
While the joblessness tally rose in December, the number of people seeking more work hours or better job opportunities fell during the month. The PSA reported 6.81 million underemployed adults during the stretch, down from 7.62 million in November.
Mapa attributed this to longer operating hours for establishments in December as more industries were permitted to operate. The entire Philippines was under the looser Alert Level 2 by end-December, allowing more businesses to reopen as people spent more and celebrated with loved ones during the holiday season.
This is reflected by the higher average of hours worked in a week, which stood at 39.7 — compared to 39.6 in November.
Agriculture and forestry; wholesale and retail trade of vehicles; and public administration and defense saw the biggest decreases in underemployment in December, he added.
The underemployment rate stood at 14.7% in December, higher by 2 percentage points month-on-month. The full-year rate was at 15.9% for 2021, improving from 16.4% the year prior but still up from 13.8% in 2019.
December’s biggest winners, losers
All major sectors except services posted higher employment tallies in December. Services accounted for 26.21 million jobs during the month, easing from 26.41 million in November.
In terms of industries, agriculture and forestry gained the most jobs on a month-on-month basis at 1.07 million according to the PSA.
Manufacturing also posted employment increases in December followed by human health and social work, transportation and storage, along with administrative and support service.
Fishing and aquaculture, meanwhile, shed the most jobs compared to November at 393,000. Other losers include other services, like repair of personal household goods and personal care services; education; public administration and defense; and information and communication.
In a statement, the National Economic and Development Authority emphasized the role of ramping up vaccination efforts and reopening more economic sectors in generating more jobs.
“While employment outcomes are expected to slightly deteriorate in January 2022 due to the higher alert levels, this will only be temporary as we vigorously pursue the implementation of the EDC’s (Economic Development Cluster) 10-point policy. This will set the stage for our full recovery in 2022,” said NEDA chief Karl Chua.