The number of jobless Filipinos increased last January to reach 2.37 million according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). This is in contrast to recent pronouncements by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Artemio Balisacan that the country has a ‘healthy’ jobs market and that the quality of jobs is increasing. 

The PSA reports that the unemployment rate increased from 4.35% in December 2022 to 4.8% in January 2023. In the same period, the labor force shrank from 51.2 million to 49.7 million. At the same time, the number of unemployed increased by 153,000 and the underemployed increased by 458,000.

The bulk of the drop in employment occurred in agriculture, wholesale and retail trade and construction.

In February, Ibon Foundation Executive Director Sonny Africa countered claims made by Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno on the success of the Marcos regime in creating new jobs and that the economy is on its way to full recovery. Africa said the Marcos Jr. administration must stop manipulating statistics and face the unemployment crisis squarely.

“[They] are using the persuasive power of statistics to tell something that is less truthful than what a more honest reading of the statistics truly shows,” said Africa.

Meanwhile, commodity prices and services continue to rise as job opportunities and wages decrease. Worse, the price per liter of petroleum products went up by 1.50 pesos in the first week of March, while electricity is poised to rise by 0.5453 pesos per kWh this month.

Africa argues that the Marcos Jr. government is spreading a story of economic recovery that is “disconnected from reality” which obscures sustainable and real solutions to the country’s economic woes.

“Without bolder measures like comprehensive national industrial and technology policy to build Filipino manufacturing, for instance, the economy will never be able to create enough formal, productive and high-paying jobs for its growing work force and population,” Africa added.

“A better story for the economy can be told – but this is best done with a real reimagining of policy and really building the domestic economy, and not with misleading propaganda,” Africa ended.