STRICTER quarantine measures in the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus area have caused a slight increase in the unemployment rate in April, the administration's economic managers said.
Based on the preliminary data of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the unemployment rate in the country increased to 8.7 percent in April from 7.1 percent in March. The unemployment rate in April is equivalent to 4.14 million in the labor force who are unemployed.
Employment rate, meanwhile, dropped to 91.3 percent in April from 92.9 percent in March.
"When infections spiked in mid-March 2021, the government decided to take a step back and impose the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified ECQ (MECQ) in the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus area from March 29 to May 15, 2021 to save lives from the virus and buy more time to further improve our health system capacity. This resulted in a temporary reversal of our first quarter employment gains, which show the tight link between labor market outcomes and the level of quarantine restrictions," the economic managers said.
The administration's economic managers are Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Socioeconomic planning Secretary Karl Kendtrick T. Chua, and Budget and Management Secretary Wendel E. Avisado.
They added that "the impact of the ECQ and MECQ on unemployment is more pronounced in regions with stricter quarantine measures, further highlighting the sensitivity of the labor market to the quarantine level."
"NCR and Region IV-A (Calabarzon), where the strictest quarantines were imposed, posted the highest regional unemployment rates in April 2021 of 14.4 percent and 13.4 percent, respectively," the economic managers said.
They also noted that "unemployment rate outside NCR continued its general downward trend, declining from 8.7 percent in January 2021 to 7.9 percent in April 2021."
"This reflects the gains from the safe reopening of the economy in the provinces," the economic managers said.
However, the economic managers said compared to the same period in 2020, the unemployment rate in April 2021 is lower. Data from PSA shows that the unemployment rate in April 2020 was at 17.6 percent or equivalent to 7.23 million Filipinos without jobs.
"The overall labor market outcomes are substantially better as we took a more risk-based approach in imposing restrictions. For instance, instead of shutting down three- fourths of the economy, we allowed public transportation and more sectors to operate, but still subject to the minimum health standards. Our experience this year shows that we can reduce cases while helping people recover their jobs and income at the same time," the economic managers.
Meanwhile, the underemployment rate increased to 17.2 percent in April this year.
"Underemployment rate or employed persons who expressed 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 hours of work was recorded at 17.2 percent in April 2021. This was lower than the 18.9 percent reported in April 2020 but higher than the January 2021 estimate of 16.0 percent," PSA said.
In a bid to improve the employment situation in the country, the economic managers said they will continue to "take well-calibrated steps to achieve better health and job outcomes for the people" through the implementation of the government's three-pillar strategy.
"The first pillar is the further re-opening of the economy towards modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) or better, at the appropriate time, along with expanding the age group allowed to go out and gradually resuming face to face learning in the low-risk areas, all with the appropriate safeguards," the economic managers said.
This will involve the strict implementation of the prevent, detect, isolate, treat, and recover (PDITR) strategy.
"Our experience in the past year shows that strict adherence to the PDITR strategy is crucial in reducing cases significantly even as the economy reopens," the group said.
Meanwhile, the second pillar is the implementation of the recovery package, consisting of fiscal, monetary, and financial interventions. This will have the government spending over P2.7 trillion or 15.4 percent of GDP since last year.
"This includes the 2021 budget, the 2020 budget extension, the Bayanihan 2 extension, the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (Create) Act, and the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (Fist) Act. Accelerating the pace of their implementation would bring forward the benefits that these measures intend," the economic managers said.
They are also calling for the passage of amendments to the Public Service Act, the Foreign Investment Act, and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act.
"Relaxing the restrictions on foreign capital will put the Philippines in a better position to compete for investments and bring in more and better job opportunities for Filipinos," the economic managers said.
The last pillar will be the accelerated implementation of the vaccination program. The group expressed optimism that more Filipinos will be vaccinated with the arrival of 27.7 million vaccine doses from May to July 2021.
The government has also recently expanded the A4 vaccine priority group to include all workers who work outside their homes, including government employees.
"Additionally, with the arrival of more vaccines this month, and the rollout of our vaccination for the 35 million A4 priority group or the economic frontliners, we can expect significant acceleration of vaccine capacity towards the 500,000 jabs per day level. This will allow us to fast-track the vaccination rollout and achieve higher immunity and greater consumer and business confidence sooner than later," Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a statement.
He added, "This, in turn, will lead to higher consumption of our local goods and services, empower more businesses, and generate more employment opportunities for our Filipinos."