Aquino on unemployment rate: Bad timing

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III was unfazed by a recent report showing a rise in the Philippines' unemployment rate from a year before, and said the timing of the survey and the weather contributed to the low number.

"The Bureau of Agriculture Statistics reported that farmers delayed their planting in April. Unfortunately, the survey also was done in April so at the time of the survey, it was coincided with the delay. So it will really result in a decline because of the perception that it was too hot to farm and the weather conditions were unfavorable," he told reporters at Laguindingan Airport on Tuesday, June 11.

Earlier that day, the National Statistics Office (NSO) reported the country's employment rate dropped to 7.5% in April, equivalent to 3.08 million Filipinos from 6.9% or 2.8 million in the same month of 2012.

This despite the soaring 7.8% economic growth in the first quarter of 2013.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) assistant director general Rosemarie Edillon said in a press briefing that 624,000 workers in agriculture-related services lost their jobs.

"My understanding is there is a net loss of something like 21,000 jobs—I was told it was just that few. The major issue there is the agriculture sector because of the delay in the planting season," Aquino said.

He also reminded media "that in the two years between 2010 and 2012, the net [of] new jobs generated was a total of 1.57 million."

"The number of new persons employed in the wage and salary category—this category is a widely used indicator of quality jobs—increased by 1.99 million during the same period," he added.

He defended the 1.99 million increase as "significant," saying he had some suspicion over respondents of the survey who say they are self-employed, "which might be a euphemism for not employed."

"So the numbers in the wage and salary sector, it's clear these people are employed," he said.
Data show job losses in the agriculture sector offset the jobs generated in the industry and services sectors. Industry generated 224,000 jobs, while services added 380,000.

Critics have complained that while the country's economic growth has been impressive, it has yet to trickle down to the poor. The government said Aquino's next 3 years will focus on making sure the impact of progress is felt by the majority. -