Manila Philippines —  According to data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Friday, the number of unemployed Filipinos continued its downward trend in April 2023, as the country saw increased economic activity. During a press conference, National Statistician and PSA chief Claire Dennis Mapa reported that the number of unemployed individuals aged 15 years and above declined to 2.26 million, from 2.76 million in April 2022, leading to an unemployment rate of 4.5% out of 50.31 million individuals in the labor force.

The number of employed persons, on the other hand, grew to 48.06 million, up from 45.63 million in April 2022, resulting in an employment rate of 95.5%. This is higher compared to the 94.3% employment rate recorded in April last year. The services sector had the highest share of employed people, with 61.1%, while the agriculture and industry sectors accounted for 21.9% and 17% respectively.

The five sub-sectors in the Philippines that saw a significant increase in employed persons from April 2022 to April 2023 are as follows:

• Wholesale and retail trade, including the repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, with an increase of 914,000 employees

• Accommodation and food service activities, which saw an increase of 379,000 employees

• Administrative and support service activities with 345,000 new hires

• Transportation and storage, which saw a rise of 321,000 employees

• Other service activities, which saw a growth of 242,000 employees

Out of the total employed individuals in the country, wage and salary workers accounted for the majority at 61.5%. Within this group, 47.6% were employed in private establishments, while those employed in government or government-controlled corporations made up 9.2% of the workforce.

Despite the year-on-year increase in employed persons, some sectors have posted declines in employment, such as agriculture and forestry (-290,000); manufacturing (-204,000); construction (-65,000); electricity, gas, steam, and air conditioning supply (-18,000); and activities of extraterritorial organizations and bodies (-3,000).

The number of underemployed individuals, or employed persons who expressed the desire to have an additional hour of work in their present job or to have an additional job, or to have a new job with long hours of work, was registered at 6.20 million, translating to an underemployment rate of 12.9%. This is lower compared to the reported 14% underemployment rate in April 2022.

In the Philippines, Region II had the highest employment rate at 97.6%, followed by Cordillera Administrative Region at 97.3%, Region IX at 97.3%, MIMAROPA at 97.1%, and Region XIII at 97.0%. While the majority of regions saw high employment rates, five out of the 17 regions reported unemployment rates higher than the national rate of 4.5% in April 2023. These regions are Region IV-A with a rate of 5.5%, National Capital Region with 5.3%, Region X with 5.3%, Region VII with 5.2%, and Region III with a rate of 4.7%.

Secretary Arsenio Balisacan of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) affirmed the government’s commitment to implementing economic liberalization reforms and other vital legislation to continue the trend of improving employment rates. He stressed the importance of comprehensive collaborations among government entities and society as a whole to enhance the employability and productivity of the workforce. By working together to address the challenges faced by different regions, the government aims to maintain a positive trajectory for the country’s labor market.

To continue improving the labor market, Balisacan suggested that the government capitalize on digital technologies to foster innovation, upgrade services, and effectively respond to the needs of the workforce. Balisacan also cited the importance of collaboration among government agencies, training institutions, technology providers, and other stakeholders to address skills mismatches, provide guidance on in-demand skills, and empower Filipinos through the utilization of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and extended reality.

In conclusion, the continued downward trajectory of unemployment in the Philippines is a positive sign for the country’s economy, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The increase in employment rates indicates that the government’s efforts to implement economic reforms and support job creation are yielding results. While there are still challenges in certain sectors, the overall trend is positive, and collaboration between different stakeholders is essential to ensure continued progress toward a more robust and sustainable labor market.