The latest unemployment data showed a slight easing in April from year-earlier levels, but this is an incomplete picture. The reason: the government failed to include the labor situation in Leyte, a province badly hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), citing the Labor Force Survey (LFS), said the unemployment rate in April was at 7 percent compared with 7.5 percent recorded in April 2013.
However, in a technical note, the PSA said the province of Leyte was not covered in the April 2014 LFS. PSA said that a new sampling frame for the province of Leyte has to be created because of the large number of households in Leyte that were displaced by super typhoon Yolanda.
“The old listing of households for Leyte used as sampling frame for the 2003 Master Sample is no longer usable. For this report, the April 2013 labor and employment indicators, computed based on data which excludes the province of Leyte, are used when comparing the April 2014 estimates with the April 2013 figures,” it stated.
Meanwhile, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said that jobs growth in all major sectors of the economy pushed total employment to 38.7 million in April 2014, a 4.5-percent increase from 37 million a year earlier.
This growth translated into 1.7 million additional employed persons in April 2014 from the same period last year, the agency said.
Excluding data from the province of Leyte, the LFS showed that the employment rate in April 2014 was estimated at 93 percent from the 92.4 percent recorded a year ago.
Employed persons are classified as either full-time workers or part-time workers. Full-time workers are those who work for 40 hours or more while part-time workers work for less than 40 hours.
On the other hand, the survey said the number of underemployed Filipinos also declined in April. Underemployed persons are those who are employed but expressed a desire to work more in their present jobs, or are seeking additional employment.
In April 2014, the underemployment rate, which is the percentage of the underemployed to the total employed, was estimated at 18.2 percent, while it was estimated at 19.2 percent in April 2013.
“While the labor and employment situation in the country has shown a respectable improvement in April 2014, mainly in terms of unemployment and underemployment rates, the quality of employment remains a concern,” said Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.
Given these figures, Balisacan, who is also director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), reiterated that the government must continue the multi-dimensional approach specified in the Updated Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 to further improve labor market performance.
Among these, he said, are strategies to encourage investments, improve productivity, and generate employment.
“To ensure that the labor and employment situation will continue to improve for the rest of the year, the timely implementation of programs is crucial. These include strategies to further improve the business climate, mitigate or cope with risks like El Niño, and facilitate linkages across sectors and regions,” the Neda chief said.
However, University of the Philippines economic professor Benjamin Diokno said that the unemployment numbers are somewhat “understated” since the PSA excluded Leyte from the survey. The province is still undergoing rehabilitation following typhoon Yolanda and its economic and unemployment situation are seen as severe.
Diokno pointed out that even though the April labor picture seems to have improved slightly from last year, the Philippines still has the highest unemployment rate among the five largest economies in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or the Asean-5.
Asean-5 includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. The economist also said the unemployment rate during the period was also much higher than the 6.7 percent official unemployment rate target for full-year 2014.
“The April LFS survey results show that 1.7 million new jobs were created, year-on-year, though close to 300,000 of those jobs were workers without pay in their own family-owned farms or business,” he said.