IN CHARTS: PH employment rises in April over ‘Build Build Build’

Aika Rey

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IN CHARTS: PH employment rises in April over ‘Build Build Build’


Rappler takes a look at the results of the April 2018 Labor Force Survey

MANILA, Philippines – Which industry gained the most employees in the past year?

Economic managers on Tuesday, June 5, announced that based on the results of the April 2018 Labor Force Survey, 40.89 million Filipinos are currently employed, an employment rate of 94.5% or 0.2 percentage points higher compared to the same period in 2017.

The employment rate in April 2018 is 2.5 percentage points higher than a decada ago, when it was at 92% in 2008.

The government credits the slight improvement to the acceleration of its “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.

Rappler takes a look at the April 2018 Labor Force Survey below:



1. Service sector gained the most employees

The numbers prove that the Filipino labor market continues to be dominated by workers in the service industry. 

Based on estimates, the services sector gained the most workers among occupational groups. (READ: Service sector will be main driver of global employment growth – ILO)

The services sector comprises 56.4% of the total employed Filipinos or about 23.05 million, from 22.31 million in 2017 or an increase of 724,000 workers.



The industry sector also saw a considerable increase in workers.

In April 2017, the share of the industry sector was only at 18.5% among employed Filipinos. In the same period this year, it rose to 19.7% or 1.7 percentage points higher, or 605,000 more workers.

2. Agriculture sector lost 723,000 workers

The share of workers in agricultural jobs went down to 23.9% in April 2018 from 26.1% in April 2017.

A total of 723,000 Filipinos left agricultural jobs, leaving some 9.78 million workers in the sector. (READ: Philippines in ‘golden age’ of growth – ADB)



According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, some 600,000 workers left their jobs under agriculture, hunting, and forestry. Only around 8.67 million Filipinos are now farmers or foresters.

Workers engaged in fishing jobs decreased by 135,000.

3. Construction hired 605,000 more workers

Under the industry occupational group, construction jobs employed the most number of workers from the past year.

From 3.55 million, the number of Filipinos in construction rose to 4.02 million. This is followed by employees in manufacturing numbering 3.65 million in April 2018 – an increase of 110,000 workers from 3.54 million in April last year.



According to Dominique Tutay, Bureau of Local Employment director, the increase in construction workers can be attributed to the government’s Build, Build, Build  infrastructure program .

“We saw a peak in numbers because of the acceleration of the government’s infrastructure projects. Compared to previous years, the increases did not spike,” Tutay told Rappler.

4. Construction spiked in 2018

Construction employment this year increased by 468,000 from the same period in 2017.

Tutay explained that government infrastructure projects are usually the “driver of employment growth” under construction jobs. But she noted that a chunk of the increase is also due to private sector initiatives.

Comparing the April 2016 and 2017 figures for example, construction employment only increased by 16,000 due to several factors, including the election ban on construction of government infrastructure, and the entry of a new administration. During the period too, the Build Build Build program was not yet implemented.



Over the past 5 years, the highest growth in employment in construction was in April 2016, when there were 3.54 million workers in the sector – an increase of 758,000 compared to the previous year.

This could be attributed to accelerated spending on government infrastructure, with only a few months till the end of the term of then President Benigno Aquino III.

In Aquino’s final State of the Nation Address in July 2015, he reported  the construction of some 33,000 classrooms, as well as bridges, roads, and flood control projects.

The 2016 increase in construction employment was 6 times more than in 2014 (135,000) and in 2015 (149,000).

5. Most Filipino workers are in trade and repair

A third of the Filipino labor market is comprised of workers in wholesale and retail trade and motor vehicle repair. From 7.87 million workers in April 2017, there are are 7.91 million in those industries. There are also 3.18 million Filipinos working in the transportation and storage industries as of April.



LFS numbers also show that only a few workers are engaged in professional activities.  However, the number increased by 54,000 in April 2018 compared to the same period last year, bringing the current number close to 300,000 employees.

6. Ilocos region has the highest unemployment rate

Among regions, Ilocos recorded the highest unemployment rate at 7.3%. According to the LFS, only 2.05 million Ilocanos are employed out of its 2.21 million labor force.

It is followed by Calabarzon at 6.6%, where 5.84 million are employed of the total 6.25 million workers in that region.




Meanwhile, Cagayan Valley has the highest employment rate among regions at 97.7% – 1.52 million of its 1.56-million workers are employed.

In terms of underemployment, Bicol region posted the highest underemployment at 34.5% of its 2.43 million workers. The Philippine average is only at 17%.

It is followed by Caraga that has 29.4% of its 1.19 million workers underemployed. 

Under the PSA’s definition, underemployed refers to those already working but are still looking for more work or longer working hours. Underemployed individuals work for less than 40 hours a week.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has the lowest underemployment rate among regions at 5.8% of its close to a million workers. But it also has the lowest labor force participation rate at 44.3% – far below the national average of 60.9%.

Jobs, jobs, jobs?

The country’s economic managers  earlier said that the Build, Build, Build program is expected to drive employment in the Philippines. 

The National Economic and Development Authority earlier estimated that the government’s infrastructure program would generate more than 100,000 jobs in 2017, over 800,000 jobs in 2018, 1.12 million jobs in 2019, 1.23 million jobs in 2020, 1.39 million jobs in 2021, and 1.7 million jobs million in 2022.

But based on the April 2018 LFS, more Filipinos have yet to join the country’s workforce. Unemployment eased slightly 5.5% in April to only 2.38 million Filipinos without jobs from 2017’s 2.47 million.

Officials maintained, however, that Build, Build, Build will accelerate “even more” when the other projects are in full blast.

“The numbers in construction peaked, but it is not yet enough because there are still a lot of projects that have yet to start,” Tutay told Rappler.

The budget department said P8 trillion to P9 trillion will be spent on the infrastructure program, raising infrastructure spending from 5.4% of the gross domestic product in 2017 to as high as 7.3% of the GDP in 2022.

The government targets the Philippine economy to grow by 7% in 2018, hinging on the  continuous rollout of its infrastructure program.–

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at