Jobs Recover as Lockdowns Ease, But Is It Sustainable?

Jobs Picture: 4.6 Million Unemployed, 7.1 Million Underemployed in July.
Photo/s: Jerome Ascano

(UPDATE) There are fewer unemployed Filipinos in July compared to April, as quarantines spawned by the COVID-19 pandemic began to ease, government data released Thursday showed. The sustainability of the recovery depends on how much the economy is allowed to reopen, one of President Rodrigo Duterte's economic managers said.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported an unemployment rate of 10% in July, down from 17.7% in April. This translates to an estimated 4.6 million jobless Filipinos aged 15 or higher, lower by 2.7 million compared to April. In July 2019, the unemployment rate was at 5.4%. The most recent jobless rate was measured from May to July, when lockdowns started to ease. The one prior culled data from February to April. The strictest lockdown or ECQ was imposed in March and ran through April.

"The July survey figures show a direct link between the level of quarantine restriction and labor market outcomes,"  Socioeconomic Planning Sec. Karl Kendrick Chua said in a statement. "In the coming months, better GDP and job numbers will hinge on how open the economy is."

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Metro Manila, Bulacan, Batangas, Tacloban and Bacolod are under the second lowest quarantine or GCQ while most of the country is under the the lowest, MECQ. The classifications are up for review at the end of September.

Jobs in trade, agriculture, construction, manufacturing, and transport benefitted the most from relaxed quarantines, Chua said. These are also "important contributors to jobs and GDP growth," he said.

"Given the sustained rise in new infections and partial lockdown measures in place, unemployment figures will likely remain elevated well into next year," said ING economist Nicholas Antonio Mapa.

Philippine Statistics Authority
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The employment rate picked up in July to 90%, recovering from a record low 82.3% in April. However, it is still lower than the 94.6% recorded in July 2019. Around 41.3 million Filipinos were employed in July, compared to 33.8 million in April and 42.5 million in July 2019.

People also worked longer hours in July, 38.2 hours per week, compared to 35 hours per week in April. Those who said they had a job but were currently not at work because of quarantine restrictions was estimated at 1.4 million in July.

Underemployment fell to 17.3% in July from 18.9% in April. There were 7.1 million underemployed persons in July, due to varying work arrangements and shortened working hours.

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