FARMER belonging to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and party-list Anakpawis said the government's latest unemployment statistics failed to include millions of workers in the agriculture sector that were forced to leave farming due to high fuel costs.

"Stratospheric fertilizer and oil prices, and low cost of palay contributed to this discouragement. Farmers cannot anymore bear the high cost of production as they receive very little to no support at all from the government," the group said.

The KMP added that government data presenting a decrease in domestic unemployment from December 2021 to January 2022 is deceptive as it failed to indicate the huge drop in the number of labor force participants and employed persons.

"The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) is painting a rosy picture about our state of employment but the stark reality is glaring at us -- the local jobs crisis is worsening and the spate of price hikes make it even more difficult for jobless workers to survive," KMP chair Danilo Ramos said.

The PSA said the 6.4-percent unemployment rate in January 2022 is equivalent to 2.93 million unemployed Filipinos, which is lower than the 3.27 million unemployed in December 2021.

However, based on December 2021 to January 2022 labor force data, the number of labor force participants fell by 3.6 million to 45.9 million from 49.5 million, according to the group.

"The government excluded discouraged labor force participants who did not look for work in the given period," Ramos said.

The labor force participation rate in December was at 65.1 percent, while in January, it dropped to 60.5 percent, he said.

"Ang katotohanan, mas marami ang walang trabaho at nasiphayo na at nawalan na ng pag-asang makahanap ng trabaho dahil sa maraming dahilan. Isa na rito ang kakulangan ng panggastos sa paghahanap ng trabaho," Ramos said.

The same Labor Force Survey indicates that the biggest decline in employment was in the agriculture sector, with 2.5 million and wholesale and retail trade with 965,000.

Ramos said the significant decrease in the number of unpaid family workers or 1.8 million indicates that no work is available in small family farms, businesses, domestic help, and even in informal and irregular work.

"What's even more disturbing is that more workers in the informal sector are losing their jobs and joining the millions of discouraged workers discounted from the labor force," Ramos said.

For his part, Anakpawis Party-list chairperson Rafael Mariano said the bane of rice tariffication is mainly to blame for the steadily declining agriculture sector.

"We hear the presidentiables say their piece against rice tariffication and how it plunged rice farmers into debt and despair. The next president should have the political will to repeal and reverse the effects of rice tariffication," Mariano said.