MANILA – First the bad news, then the not-so-good news.
As the end of the year approaches, the Philippine economy is not exactly in great shape, what with unemployment on the rise and inflation slowing down, but still up.
At the same time, Filipino consumers were bracing for a second round of increases in the excise taxes of petroleum products next year, which the Duterte administration announced this week.
That sets the stage for higher inflation at the onset of the new year, four weeks from now.
As of October of 2018, the number of unemployed Filipinos stood at 2.2 million, according to data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Wednesday, Dec. 5.
The number of Filipinos of employment age who were working was pegged at 41.3 million.
The Philippines’ unemployment rate inched up to 5.1 percent compared to the same period last year. Employment slipped slightly to 94.9 percent as against 95 percent in October 2017.
This means that not enough new jobs were created in the last 12 months to accommodate the latest entrants to the workforce.
Meanwhile, PSA data showed that the seven-month climb in the prices of goods finally came to an end in November, slowing down to six percent, which is 0.7 percentage points lower than October’s 6.7 percent.
Slowdowns in the yearly increases were noted in the indices of food and non-alcoholic beverages at 8 percent; housing, water, electricity, gas, and other fuels at 4.2 percent; and communication at 0.4 percent.
Transportation cost maintained its annual rate of 8.9 percent, the same as in October.
Prices of the Philippines’ principal staple food of rice slowed down last month to 8.1 percent compared to the previous month’s 10.7 percent.
Fish prices in November also eased to 12.5 percent compared to October’s 13.8 percent, while prices of pork and beef also slowed down to 6.3 percent, from 7.5 percent in the previous month.
Inflation for November was within the 5.8 percent to 6.6 percent range projected by the BangkoSentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), which was lower than the 6.3 percent forecast by the Department of Finance.
The country’s central bank said last month’s inflation slowdown was “very encouraging.”
“For the first time we are seeing significant negative month-on-month growth after inflation plateaued at around 6.7 percent,” according to the BSP.
Meanwhile, the underemployment rate went down to 13.3 percent. The figure is lower than the 15.9 percent in the same period last year.
Underemployment is defined as the need for more working hours by adults who are only partially employed. Underemployment is at its lowest since 2003, according to the PSA.
The majority of Filipinos are employed in the services sector, comprising 56.8 percent of the total number of employed persons.
The agriculture and industry sectors comprised 24.1 percent and 19.1 percent of the total workforce, respectively.