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MANILA – The country's unemployment rate went down to 4.7 percent in March from 4.8 percent in February, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Monday.

In a press conference, PSA Undersecretary and National Statistician Dennis Mapa said preliminary results of the latest Labor Force Survey (LFS) showed the decline translates to 2.42 million unemployed Filipinos, out of 51 million Filipinos who were in the labor force in March 2023.

Labor force participation rate, meanwhile, fell to 66 percent from 66.6 percent in February.

Employment rate in March was estimated at 95.3 percent, up from the 95.2 percent the previous month.

Mapa said industries with largest increase in employment include transportation and storage, accommodation and food service activities, wholesale and retail trade, construction and other service activities.

By industry group, the services sector continued to be the top employment hub, with a share of 59 percent of the total employed population in March 2023.

It was followed by the agriculture and industry sectors which accounted for 23.5 percent and 17.5 percent of the total employed persons, respectively.

Underemployment rate, which settled at 11.2 percent from 12.9 percent in February, was the lowest reported since April 2005.

In a statement, the Department of Finance (DOF) said the latest employment data shows that the country is seeing continued improvements in the labor market.

DOF Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the lower unemployment rate and improvement in employment figures "indicate that our economy is poised for continued recovery and growth."

“The government’s drive to attract foreign direct investments, mainly through the economic liberalization laws and efforts to enhance the ease of doing business in the Philippines, are expected to generate jobs and business opportunities in the medium term,” Diokno said.

Meanwhile, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) vowed that the government will continue to enhance labor productivity and push for investments to generate high-quality jobs for Filipino workers.

NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the government is currently addressing issues and constraints to improve labor productivity and high-quality job generation.

“Passing major economic liberalization reforms is a critical first step. However, in a region where our neighbors are also aggressively competing for investments, we must leverage on these changes to the country’s policy regime by ensuring that we urgently address on-the-ground concerns related to the ease of doing business," he said in a separate statement.

"Investors must not be kept waiting –we must create an enabling regulatory environment that makes it easy for them to set up shop, expand, and generate the high-quality jobs we need,” he added.

As the government pursues its infrastructure drive, Balisacan said significant and sustained improvements in human capital will be needed to complement the productivity gains from investments in physical capital.

“Improving the country’s health, nutrition, and education-related outcomes will be key to maintaining the competitiveness of the country’s labor force relative to those of its Southeast Asian neighbors. Investments in human capital will ensure that the growing working-age population will be able to maximize the job, market, and technological opportunities made available to it and allow the country to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend,” he said.

The NEDA chief also cited the importance of collaboration among government agencies, training institutions, technology providers, and other stakeholders to explore and utilize new technologies toward upskilling and reskilling on digital technology and innovations.

“Regulatory reforms, strategic investments in human capital, a flourishing innovation ecosystem – these are some of the much-needed elements that will enable us to sustain the gains we see in our labor market as we work towards raising overall welfare and meeting our medium-term socioeconomic goals,” Balisacan added. (PNA)