MANILA, Philippines — Nearly a quarter of Philippine employees laid off since a pandemic lockdown was first imposed last March remain jobless or are no longer looking for work, even as the economy has mostly been reopened, the country’s statistics agency said.
Some 75% of the 9.1 million laid-off workers in the agency’s survey found jobs, but 1.2 million are still unemployed. Another 1 million were no longer in the workforce as of last month, according to data released Tuesday.
The February jobs report shows “continued improvements in the economy,” the country’s economic managers said in a statement. “The gradual reopening of the economy allowed more people to join the work force.”
The data show the long-term impact of strict movement curbs first imposed in March 2020. The Philippine capital has just been put under a fresh week-long lockdown as the country’s coronavirus infections have hit fresh records.
The jobless rate ticked up to 8.8% last month from 8.7% in January as more people sought jobs, the agency said. That translates to 200,000 more Filipinos without work in February.
The World Bank said that the country’s recovery from the pandemic falls behind its regional peers. The Philippines is expected to post the highest jobless rate in Asia this year, according to a Bloomberg survey.
The rate of those seeking more work hours rose to 18.2% in February from 16% a month earlier, equivalent to 1.3 million more employees who are underemployed, according to national statistician Claire Dennis Mapa. Most respondents said their work hours were cut due to “poor business conditions,” Mapa said in a live-streamed briefing.
The new lockdown’s impact on jobs in Manila and nearby areas won’t be seen until April’s data, as this month’s survey is already complete, Mapa said.