PSA: 3.7 million Filipinos jobless in 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The number of jobless Filipinos declined to 3.7 million in 2021 from the 15-year-high of 4.5 million unemployed the year before, which was the height of the longest and most stringent COVID-19 lockdowns.

However, joblessness remained higher than the 14-year low of 2.3 million in 2019 (pre-pandemic), the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) latest preliminary 2021 annual labor market statistics showed.

The PSA said that last year, 47.7 million or 63.3 percent of Filipinos in the labor force population participated in the jobs market, or actively sought employment. Last year’s labor force participation rate was higher than 2019’s 61.3 percent.

Residents of Northern Mindanao, especially Bukidnon province, were the most active in the job market, while Central Luzon had the lowest labor force participation rate last year, PSA data showed.

In 2021, the labor force population totaled 75.3 million – Filipinos 15 years old and older, with or without jobs.

In 2020, only 43.9 million or 59.5 percent of the 73.7 million Filipinos in the labor force population were working or actively looked for a job due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The 3.7 million jobless in 2021 translated into an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent, below the also 15-year-high of 10.3 percent in 2020, when millions of jobs were shed and thousands of businesses shuttered after 75 percent of the economy was stopped by lockdowns to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The PSA noted that the regional unemployment rates in the National Capital Region (NCR) of 10.6 percent, Calabarzon’s also 10.6 percent, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao’s (BARMM) 9.2 percent, Bicol Region’s 8.2 percent, Ilocos Region’s similar 8.2 percent, as well as Mimaropa’s 7.9 percent were above the national average.

Among local government units (LGUs), the PSA said that “Olongapo City has the highest unemployment rate at 14.4 percent accounting for 14,670 unemployed persons out of 101,880 persons in the labor force,” while Camarines Norte’s jobless rate was second highest last year, at 14.1 percent.

On the flip side, the 92.2-percent employment rate in 2021 translated into 43.9 million Filipinos with jobs.

“Among the regions, Zamboanga Peninsula had the highest employment rate at 96 percent” while “Mimaropa (92.1 percent), Ilocos Region (91.8 percent), Bicol Region (91.8 percent), BARMM (90.8 percent), Calabarzon (89.4 percent), and NCR (89.4 percent) registered employment rates lower than the national estimate,” the PSA noted.

Across LGUs, Surigao del Sur had the highest 2021 employment rate of 97.7 percent or 282,740 of its residents with jobs, out of the province’s 289,440 labor force population.

The underemployment rate – the share of workers who wanted jobs with longer working hours or bigger pay – also declined to 15.9 percent last year from 16.2 percent in 2020, although remaining higher than 2019’s 13.8 percent.

However, the number of Filipinos who considered themselves underemployed rose to seven million in 2021 from 6.4 million in 2020 and 5.9 million in 2019, given the larger number of those who sought jobs to survive amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic.

The province of Agusan del Sur posted the highest LGU (local government unit) underemployment rate of 51.6 percent in 2021, while Cotabato City’s 1.7 percent was the lowest.

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