Economy loses jobs despite reported growth

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The recently released labor force survey figures indicate an alarming intensification of the domestic jobs crisis with the economy losing jobs despite reported economic growth, said research group IBON. Reported unemployment and underemployment in the country fell, but so did employment and the size of the labor force – all of which indicate growing distortions rather than improvements in the economy. The group said that this is only the latest sign of the untenability of the current government’s neoliberal economic policies.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported 5.7% unemployment and 16.1% underemployment in April 2017, both of which were lower than in the same period the year before. The number of unemployed Filipinos correspondingly declined by some 182,000 and the number of underemployed by a large 963,000. At first glance these appear to be signs of an improving jobs situation.

However, IBON noted that if the PSA-released data are correct, then the reported number of employed Filipinos actually fell by 393,000 to 40.3 million in April 2017 from 40.7 million in the same period the year before. Not only did the reported first quarter growth of 6.4% in gross domestic product (GDP) not create jobs, but the economy actually lost jobs since last year.

The biggest job losses were in the services sector which apparently shed 557,000 jobs since last year, said the group. This was mainly due to some 448,000 jobs lost in wholesale and retail trade followed by 74,000 lost in education and 65,000 in accommodation and food service activities. These are only preliminary figures because the data released by PSA is still incomplete. Though the agricultural sector saw a 125,000 increase in employment (1.2% growth) and manufacturing just a 56,000 increase (1.6% growth), these are at rates far below reported economic growth.

IBON said that the favorable unemployment and underemployment figures are only a statistical illusion. The apparent improvement is only because of the drastic fall in the labor force which is used as the base for computing unemployment and underemployment.

The labor force participation rate fell to 61.4% which is the lowest in 36 years or since the 60.1% recorded during the country’s severe economic crisis in 1982 under the Marcos dictatorship. The group said that the lower labor force participation rate means that the labor force shrunk by 575,000 in April 2017 from the year before despite the 1.4 million increase in the population 15 years old and over. Given the chronic poverty and low incomes in the country, this is most likely due to ever-growing numbers of discouraged workers dropping out of the labor force after failing to find jobs.

IBON stated that the April 2017 figures affirm the need to drastically reorient economic policies to aggressively build domestic agriculture and Filipino manufacturing to be the main drivers of domestic demand and employment. Neoliberal market-driven policies have not and will not develop the Philippine economy, said the group. ###

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