President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (File photo)

MANILA – Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. on Thursday said the country’s employment rate bounced back to its pre-pandemic level due to the Marcos administration’s efforts to create more jobs and further open up the Philippine economy.

In an interview with People’s Television Network (PTV), Ortiz-Luis particularly noted the recovery of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) accounting for nearly 65 percent of total employment, which has helped fuel the growth of the economy.

"Kung hindi doon sa pagbubukas ng ekonomiya ay marami, alam mo naman, lalo na iyong mga micro industries natin ay kalahati niyan ay nagsara during the pandemic (If not for the opening of the economy, as around half of our micro industries had shut down during the pandemic.) 65 percent of employment comes from them. Ngayon, nakikita nating unti-unti na silang nagbubukas, at marami na ang tao na naka-standby ang tinatawag nila (Now, we are seeing that they are slowly reopening, and they are tapping more people who are on standby),” Ortiz-Luis said.

He said inflation remains manageable, expressing confidence that the country is still on track toward economic recovery.

"Well, I will not say out of control iyong inflation, medyo mataas lang pero iyan naman ay manageable pa iyan. At talaga namang on track tayo dahil tuluy-tuloy naman ang paglago ng ating ekonomiya (Well, I will not say that inflation is out of control. While inflation may be high, it remains manageable. And we are still on track because our economy still continues to grow),” said Ortiz-Luis.

On Wednesday, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported the 95.5 percent annual expansion of the employment rate in the country, up from the previous month’s 95 percent rise and is the highest recorded rate since January 2020.

During the period, the unemployment rate returned to the pre-pandemic level of 4.5 percent, or about 2.24 million Filipinos.

The labor force participation rate in October this year improved to 64.2 percent from 62.6 percent in the same period last year.

Ortiz-Luis, however, cited the need to intensify efforts to address skills mismatch and attract investments that will generate more jobs.

"Ang name of the game there is addressing the mismatch – kung ano iyong hinahanap ng mga industriya, hinahanap ng mga employers, ay iyon ang hinahanapan natin ng ka-match. So, iyon ang importante (The name of the game is addressing the mismatch--we will aim to secure a better match between the skills of the workers and what the industries and employers are looking for with the jobs that they offer. That's the important thing),” said Ortiz-Luis.

He said the recent travels of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. also paved the way for more investors and drive critical investments in a wide range of sectors.

"So, iyong pagbiyahe-biyahe ng Pangulo sa iba’t ibang bansa ay talagang nakaka-attract ng investments iyan (The international trips of the President have really attracted more investments)," he said.

"Lahat ng mga pledges ay hindi naman nagkakatotoo iyong iba, pero marami rin ay talagang natutuloy at marami riyan ang nagki-create ng jobs. At saka iyong tiwala ng mga international investments sa atin ay tumataas (Although not all pledges would materialize, many of these would still push through and create more jobs. And the trust and confidence of international investors are increasing),” Ortiz-Luis added.

President Marcos earlier expressed optimism that the Philippines would not experience recession because of the continuous drop in the country’s unemployment rate amid rising inflation.

Marcos acknowledged that inflation in the country hit a 14-year high of 8 percent in November but pointed out that the jobless rate in October eased to 4.5 percent, its lowest since the same period in 2019.

“Ang balita na tumaas ang inflation rate na hanggang 8 percent last November. Mayroon naman kasabay na mas magandang balita na bumaba ang unemployment rate sa four-and-a-half percent mula sa 5 percent (The news is that inflation rate increased to 8 percent last November. But it was also accompanied by the good news that the unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 percent from 5 percent),” he said in a video message sent to Palace reporters.

He expressed confidence that job growth would prevent the economy from further declining.

“Kaya’t kahit papaano ay malakas ang loob natin na hindi tayo magkakaroon ng recession dito sa Pilipinas dahil masyadong mababa ang unemployment rate (So we are somehow confident that we will not have a recession here in the Philippines because the unemployment rate is too low),” he said.

Marcos, likewise, renewed his commitment that his administration would prioritize the creation of more quality jobs in the country.

“Kung maaalala ninyo sa pagsimula namin dito sa administrasyong ito ay pinag-usapan na namin ay trabaho talaga ang aming uunahin. Kaya’t ‘yan ang nakikita ngayon natin na nangyayari. Ipagpatuloy lang natin ‘yan (If you remember when we started here in this administration we said our priority is really jobs. So that's what we see happening now. Let's just continue that),” he added.

Meanwhile, he assured that the government would continue to find ways to cushion the impact of the rising prices of basic goods and services.

“Asahan ninyo na lahat ng paraaan na maari nating gawin ay gagawin natin para pababain ang inflation rate at gawing mas mabagal man lang ang pagtaas ang presyo ng kung anu-anong mga bilihin (Rest assured that we will do everything we can to lower the inflation rate and at least slow down the rise in prices of certain goods),” he said. (PNA)