The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) today said 2008 showed signs more favorable to employment growth as the slump in the agricultural sector made a turnaround in the first month of the year.

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque said that despite the spiraling oil price hikes coupled with the continuing depreciation of the US dollar, employment grew modestly in January 2008 with the agricultural sector as the main driver of growth.

Citing the National Statistics Office’s (NSO) January 2008 Labor Force Survey (LFS), Roque said total employed persons increased from 33.545 million in January 2007 to 33.695 million in the same period this year. The modest growth was expected as it came from a higher base last year. It should be noted that employment in January 2007 expanded by a robust 4.7% (+1.514 million), the highest of the four LFS surveys last year.

Roque said employment growth was driven by the agricultural sector, which turned around from last year’s slump (-39,000) and expanded by1.3%. In absolute terms, the number of employed persons in the agriculture, fishery, and forestry rose by 156,000 from 11.639 million in January 2007 to 11.795 million in January 2008.

Other employment gains occurred in construction (+73,000), mining and quarrying (+8,000), and electricity, gas, and water (+2,000).

In status of employment, Roque said data showed that workers employed on a full-time basis rose by 1.6% or an additional of 329,000. Part-time employment, on the other hand, fell by 1.4% (-167,000) over the period.

The DOLE Chief noted that with the employment gains, unemployment and underemployment declined as he clarified news reports, which added the number of unemployed persons to the number of underemployed persons.

He said lumping the number of unemployed and underemployed together is inaccurate and categorically distorts the real employment picture. He said it is not correct to add the unemployment and underemployment figures as they represent different concepts and definitions.

Unemployment refers to persons on the labor force who has no job or business during the reference week but are reported to be available and actively looking for work. Underemployment, on the other hand, refers to employed persons who desire to have additional hours of work in their present job or in an additional job, or to have a new job with longer working hours.

Roque added it is also inaccurate to compare data on a quarter-to-quarter basis due to the seasonality factor. He said there is no point of comparison between the October LFS and the following January LFS as the circumstances between the two surveys are different. Employment and economic activity usually perk up in the October period due to the forthcoming Christmas season. Employment afterwards slows down as the season ends in January the following year.

“Let us not mislead the public with the wrong interpretation of statistical data,” the DOLE Chief said noting that the more accurate comparison would be on a year-on-year basis.

He said that on a year-on-year basis, unemployment fell though modestly in January 2008 to 7.4% from 7.8% a year ago. In actual terms, the number of unemployed persons declined by 175,000, from 2.85 million to 2.675 million. A major factor to the decline in unemployment was the voluntary withdrawal of women from the labor market due to family obligations.

Underemployment similarly declined over the same period by 2.6 percentage points from 21.5% to 18.9%. This corresponds to 6.370 million underemployed persons, down by 844,000 from the previous year.

The Acting DOLE Chief said the decline in the number of underemployed persons was evident as more people found full-time employment.

Source: Information and Publication Service

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