THE recovery in global trade that spawned a double-digit increase in exports in the first semester apparently reduced the number of unemployed Filipinos to 2.7 million, according to the Labor Force Survey (LFS) released by the National Statistics Office (NSO) on Wednesday.
The NSO said the unemployment rate in July 2010 was estimated at 6.9 percent compared to last year’s estimate of 7.6 percent. This reduced the number of unemployed to 2.708 million in July 2010 from 2.922 million in July 2009.
Similarly, the number of underemployed persons also decreased to 6.5 million in July 2010 from 7.034 million in the same period in 2009. This translated to a slower underemployment rate of 17.9 percent from last year’s 19.8 percent.
The NSO defined underemployed persons as those who express the desire to have additional hours of work in their present job or to have an additional job, or to have a new job with longer working hours.
While this is a welcome development, Action for Economic Reform coordinator Filomeno Sta. Ana III said it is still hard to say whether the trend will continue in the second half of the year, given the risks to economic and employment growth.
Sta. Ana cited the need to first determine whether the country’s constraints like fiscal problems and the appreciation of the peso will be addressed during this period.
Former Philippine Economic Society president Fernando Aldaba agreed with Sta. Ana. Aldaba said the decrease in the unemployment and underemployment figures also show that more Filipinos were able to get better-quality jobs during the period.
However, Aldaba also said the Philippines is not entirely out of the woods yet, considering the need to sustain the 7-percent growth in the second half to create the necessary jobs in the sectors that employ the largest amount of the labor force.
In the Philippines’ case, this means creating higher growth in agriculture, which easily employs a third of the entire labor force. Based on the July 2010 LFS, agriculture accounted for 33.9 percent of the labor force.
“That means more people got new jobs and some were able to get better-quality jobs. But we are not out of the woods yet. Growth must be sustained at a high level and in sectors that generate a lot of jobs,” Aldaba said.
The number of unemployed persons was higher among males, or 62.6 percent, than among females, 37.4 percent. More than half, or 52.4 percent, of the unemployed were in age group 15 to 24.
About one-third, or 32.5 percent, of the unemployed were high-school graduates, 22.7 percent were college undergraduates and 20.5 percent were college graduates.
In terms of the underemployed, more than half, or 58.1 percent, of the total underemployed were reported as visibly underemployed, or working less than 40 hours during the reference week. Those working for 40 hours or more accounted for 40.4 percent.
Most of the underemployed were working in the agriculture sector, or 46.7 percent; and services sector, 37.8 percent. The underemployed in the industry sector accounted for 15.5 percent.
The NSO said the employment rate reached 93.1 percent, which means around 36.3 million employed. The employment rate in July last year was recorded at 92.4 percent.
Among the regions, Cagayan Valley, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao posted the highest employment rate at 96 percent. The National Capital Region had the lowest employment rate at 89.1 percent.
The July 2010 LFS also revealed that the size of the labor force was approximately 39 million out of the estimated 60.9 million population of 15 years old and over. These numbers translate to a labor-force participation rate (LFPR) of 64 percent. The LFPR in July 2009 was 64.6 percent.
Of the estimated 36.3 million employed persons in July 2010, the services sector was the largest group, comprising more than half, or 51.2 percent of the total employed population.
The highest employed work force in the services sector were in wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and personal and household goods, or 19.4 percent of the total employed.
Workers in the agriculture sector accounted for 33.9 percent of the total employed, with those engaged in the agriculture, hunting and forestry subsector, making up the largest subsector, or 29.9 percent, of the total employed.
Only 14.9 percent of the total employed were in the industry sector, with the manufacturing subsector making up the largest percentage, or 8.3 percent of the total employed.
Among the various occupation groups, the laborers and unskilled workers comprised the largest group, posting 31.8 percent of the total employed population. Farmers, forestry workers and fishermen were the second-largest group, accounting for 16.8 percent of the total employed.
Cai Ordinario, Business World