Unemployment lowest in almost two decades, generating high-quality jobs crucial

The country’s labor market remains robust, with the lowest unemployment rate recorded in nearly two decades, as the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) reaffirmed the Marcos Administration’s commitment to generate more high-quality jobs for Filipinos.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the Philippines recorded a 3.1 percent unemployment rate in December 2023, significantly lower than the 4.3 percent recorded in December 2022. This represents a year-on-year decrease of 617,000 unemployed individuals.

Similarly, the underemployment rate decreased to 11.9 percent in December 2023 from the 12.6 percent reported in December 2022. This decline corresponds to 186,000 fewer underemployed or employed persons who desire additional jobs and work hours.

“We welcome the news of a record-low unemployment rate, signifying the economy’s sustained momentum and resiliency of our labor market. Further, the Marcos Administration is steadfast in its commitment to prioritize creating high-paying jobs to address the longstanding vulnerabilities in our country’s employment and lower the underemployment rate, an indicator of job quality. We will continue ramping up social and physical infrastructure investments and dramatically improve human capital to strengthen our people’s employment prospects,” said NEDA Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan.

Overall, the improvement in the labor market translated to the number of employed persons aged 15 years and above reaching 50.52 million in December 2023, which is higher than the 49.00 million recorded in the same period last year. The 96.9 percent employment rate in the country is now the highest recorded rate since April 2005.

Given these promising labor market conditions, Balisacan expressed confidence that these favorable trends will continue as the government pushes for more investments by creating an enabling policy and regulatory environment and relentlessly addressing constraints in critical areas identified by the private sector.

These include the cost of energy and logistics, the ease of doing business, the competitiveness of the country’s labor force, and the consistency of rules and regulations.

On the other hand, there were employment losses in the wholesale and retail trade (-660,000), administrative and support service activities (-250,000), and fishing and aquaculture (-159,000). The PSA also noted an increase in the youth underemployment rate, rising to 11.6 percent from 9.2 percent in the same period last year.

Balisacan said that some of these issues can be addressed, in part, by further increasing the utilization of digital technology, which is crucial in raising productivity and promoting efficiency.

“The government must ensure that innovation and digitalization become integral across all sectors. To help enable such processes, we are very open to collaborating with our colleagues in Congress to tackle and ultimately pass the Open Access in Data Transmission bill. Accelerating digitalization and improving connectivity through a more competitive and vibrant ICT sector can be a game changer, especially when considering the socioeconomic opportunities that can be created and multiplied for small business owners and those in far-flung areas,” the government’s chief economic planner said.

Balisacan added that the government should enact reforms in education and training programs, such as upskilling and reskilling initiatives, to promote a culture of innovation. He said these efforts will prepare the workforce with the necessary skills and adaptability to thrive in the evolving digital landscape.

“We will continue to advocate for interventions to support a more agile and adaptive workforce, such as the Apprenticeship Bill, Lifelong Learning Bill, and Enterprise Productivity Act. These efforts will complement the various initiatives to provide upgraded and expanded employment facilitation services to support our robust labor market,” Balisacan added.

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