The country’s unemployment rate spiked to 8.7 percent of the labor force for the month of April, up from the 7.1 percent rate in March. This translated to about 4.14 million jobless Filipinos, of which more than a fifth are in the Metro Manila area.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua adds that the fresh graduates who entered the labor force in early April added to the unemployment figures.
Stricter lockdowns in areas accounting for half of the economy led to the rise in unemployment for April 2021. Compared to a year ago, unemployment actually eased from a record high of 17.6 percent or equivalent to 7.23 million Filipinos without a job. That was when 75 percent of the economy stopped at the height of the most stringent Covid-19 lockdown in the region from mid-March to May of 2020.
In a joint statement, President Duterte’s economic managers said the April unemployment reflected “a temporary reversal of our first-quarter employment gains, which show the tight link between labor market outcomes and the level of quarantine restrictions.” Even with 4.14 million jobless Filipinos, they patted themselves on the back for statistics that were “substantially better” than last year’s ECQ due to a more risk-based approach in imposing restrictions.
Compared to the extreme lockdowns of 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic forced governments to overreact, our economy should be doing much better. After all, we have been dealing with the pandemic for more than a year. While other governments that used science-based approaches in their pandemic response have already seen to the recovery of their economies, the Philippine economy remains stagnant. Their government officials are comparing their economy statistics such as unemployment rates to pre-pandemic levels whilst our officials are making comparisons to statistics from the worst of times in order to make the country’s still-poor performance this year under their watch look excusable.
With unemployment still stuck in pandemic levels for the foreseeable future, the Philippines will lag behind badly. The never ending roulette of quarantine restrictions and an unclear path to herd immunity through vaccination doesn’t inspire hope for a much-needed economic recovery.
Our government officials are content telling suffering Filipinos that we should be thankful things are not as bad as last year when the pandemic was peaking but after more than 15 months, there remains no roadmap to recovery, both from the pandemic and for the economy.*