Employment rates surged in January 2018 as the Philippine labor market continued to thrive on the back of sustained economic growth, the National Economic and Development Authority said.

In the January 2018 Labor Force Survey (LFS), conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority, employment rate rose to 94.7 percent, equivalent to 41.8 million Filipinos employed. This rate is the highest in all of the previous January rounds of the LFS since 2009.

Labor force participation rate (LFPR) also increased by 1.5 ppts, rising to 62.2 percent in January 2018. Furthermore, female LFPR bounced back to 47.5 percent or a 2.3 ppts increase from 45.2 percent in January 2017. This reflects the sharp decline in the number of economically inactive married women and females who opt out of the labor force due to household duties.

Notably, the unemployment rate dropped further to 5.3 percent, the lowest rate recorded for all January rounds of the LFS in the past decade. This is within the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022 target of 4.7-5.3 percent for 2018.

“These improvements in the labor market indicate that more Filipinos are encouraged to join and re-join the labor force, and that more people are being employed. This signals that the economy is responding positively to the economic reforms and programs that the government has been laying down,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said.

“But despite these encouraging numbers, the government must continue to raise investments and improve productivity, which in turn, will help boost the productive sectors of the economy and encourage the generation of higher quality employment opportunities,” he said.

Pernia added that the government should facilitate the creation of new businesses and boost the outputs of firms by amending market regulations, tackling structural barriers, and passing key reforms. These include the reduction of foreign investment restrictions, as well as the passage of the Ease of Doing Business bill and Package 2 of the Tax Reform program, which will lower corporate taxes while rationalizing investment incentives.

The services sector remained the top employment contributor with a share of 55.9 percent, increasing by 3.8 percent despite the downbeat business outlook of firms for the first quarter.

Employment in agriculture grew by 8.4 percentage points to 26 percent employment share, employing an additional 841,000 workers.

Pernia, however, emphasized that there is a need to help move the labor force in the agriculture sector out of low-productivity jobs. This can be facilitated by shifting rice farmers to high-value crops, promoting crop diversification, accelerating development of local infrastructure (e.g. farm-to-market roads, etc.), and training farmers in technological advancements.

Meanwhile, the industry sector employed an additional 719,000 workers after expanding by 10.5 percentage points to 18.1 percent in January 2018, led by the increase in employment in construction and manufacturing.

“More jobs are expected to be created during the country’s infrastructure build up which will not only ease traffic and promote regional development but also generate more quality jobs,” the Cabinet official said.

Moreover, the unemployment rate among the youth continued to slide to 12.5 percent in January 2018, the lowest rate recorded for January since 2009. Likewise, the share of inactive youth, those who are neither studying nor employed, also declined to 18.8 percent.

“If we are to sustain this trend for the rest of the year, we can achieve the PDP target of lowering youth unemployment to 19.5 – 21.5 percent for 2018,” Pernia said.

“It is important that we continue to push for the full implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law to enable more women to participate in the labor force,” Pernia said.

He added that it may be the appropriate time to put in place the legal and regulatory framework to allow part-time work especially in low-paying jobs.

“This will especially benefit school dropouts so they can study or be trained further and get themselves into higher paying jobs in the future,” Pernia said.