1 million new jobs push down unemployment to 6.6%

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Students undergo a practical test during an automotive class at the women's center of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) on April 30, 2013 in Manila.

(CNN Phillippines) — An additional 1.04 million Filipinos joined the labor market from January 2014 to January 2015, according to figures from the latest Labor Force Survey.

The figures were released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Thursday (March 12).

The number of newly employed workers pushed down the country's year-on-year unemployment rate to 6.6% in January 2015, from 7.5% the previous year.

The PSA defines the labor force as Filipinos "15 years old and over who contribute to the production of goods and services in the country." It includes both employed and unemployed Filipinos.

Despite the overall decline, four regions had employment rates below the national figure of 93.4% – namely the National Capital Region (90.7%), Calabarzon (91.4%), Ilocos (91.5%), and Central Luzon (91.5%).

In separate statements, Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan and Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said that the unemployment figure amounts to about 2.6 million Filipinos.

The PSA divided the labor force into three sectors: agriculture, services, and industry.

Services take the lion's share of the labor force at 54.6%. Agriculture and industry, on the other hand, account for 29.5% and 15.9% of the country's jobs, respectively.

Balisacan gave much credit to the services sector for the job growth.

"The labor market got a boost from a stronger growth in all sectors mainly driven by services which grew by 3.9%, contributing a 766,000 net employment gain in January 2015," he said.

The 766,000 jobs generated by the services sector greatly outnumber the 19,000 jobs that it had created in 2014.

All regions, except for Region 8 (Eastern Visayas), posted a decline in joblessness.

According to the National Economic Development Authority, Region 8 was excluded so that the January 2015 figures would be comparable to those released in January 2014.

No survey was conducted in the region during that time because of labor displacement caused by Typhoon Yolanda.

Underemployment also went down to 17.5% from 19.5% a year ago.

The PSA defines underemployment as a situation in which employed persons express the desire to have additional hours of work in their present job or an additional job or have a new job with longer working hours.

Of the total employed persons in January 2015, 62% were full-time workers, while 36.9% were part-time workers, according to the PSA.

Grouped according to occupation, unskilled workers and laborers make up the biggest chunk of the work force at 31%.

They are followed by officials of the government and special interest groups (16.5%), and farmers, forestry workers, and fishermen (13.1%).

Balisacan believes that much work still needs to be done.

"Our significant strides in poverty reduction through better quality jobs and higher incomes must move forward along with cheaper food prices," he said. "Elevated rice prices are of particular concern, as rice takes up about 20 percent of the budget of the poor."

"Relatedly, the government must continue its efforts to create a more supportive business environment, allowing the private sector to create more and better jobs," he added.

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