ABOUT 7.3 million Filipinos lost their jobs and the unemployment rate increased sharply to a record high of 17.7 percent in April 2020 as the economy ground to a halt due to the lockdown aimed at preventing transmission of the novel coronavirus.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), in a statement Friday, June 5, said the April jobless rate was more than three times the 5.3 percent in January 2020 and the 5.1 percent in April 2019.
The PSA also said labor force participation rate among Filipinos who are 15 years and older was estimated at 55.6 percent in April 2020, an all-time low in the history of the Philippine labor market.
The labor force participation rate is the proportion of those actively working or seeking jobs.
With the increase in the unemployment rate, the employment rate in April went down to 82.3 percent, indicating that there were only 33.8 million employed persons in April 2020 compared to 41.8 million in April 2019.
All regions reported double-digit unemployment rates.
But the highest was in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARRM) at 29.8 percent, followed by Central Luzon with 27.3 percent and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) with 25.3 percent.
The number of employed persons who were not at work was reported at 38.4 percent or 13 million of the total employed.
The PSA also said the average number of hours worked per week fell to 35 in April 2020 from 41.8 hours per week in April 2019.
In a statement, Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the spike in the jobless rate was expected.
"The lockdown during the community quarantine from March to May, which is supposed to be the period for job hunting of our fresh graduates, has put the labor force in a standstill as two-thirds of the economy is shut down," said Bello.
"When the global pandemic hit, we feared that employment will be impacted badly. We expected these results given that health crisis has crippled most of our economic activities," he added.
He said the 17.7 percent unemployment surpassed the country’s 10.3 percent unemployment rate during the Asian financial crisis in 1998.
President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) on March 17, 2020. Several local government units followed and imposed localized quarantines.
Under ECQ, public transport systems were suspended, non-essential businesses were closed and the people - except the frontliners, essential workers and those who have to procure essential goods and services - were required to stay at home.
The government relaxed quarantine restrictions on June 1, 2020, with local governments placed under either general community quarantine (GCQ) or modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
Under GCQ, public transport systems are gradually allowed to resume operations at limited capacity and non-essential businesses are allowed to reopen, also at limited capacity. The restrictions are relaxed further under MGCQ, which is the transition phase towards the new normal. (Marites Villamor-Ilano/HDT/SunStar Philippines)