Press Releases

Statement on the December 2023 jobs report

February 7th, 2024

Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda
7 February 2024

This is PBBM’s economy now: the fastest growing in ASEAN, with near-full employment.

As far as economics goes, a 3.1 percent unemployment rate is as good as full employment. This jobs report confirms that the Philippines is the fastest growing economy in the region for 2023. This could have been even brighter, if government spending only caught up to the rest of the economy last year.

President Marcos’s first full year in office created some 1.5 million jobs, including some 44,000 manufacturing jobs, and some 777,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector – primarily driven by the private sector, since public sector spending grew at a modest 0.4 percent last year.

The President’s policies and his signaling have restored confidence in the private sector. Business expectations are upbeat and more or less where it was prior to the pandemic. The production index in November 2023, just before the jobs survey would have been conducted, was also the highest it had ever been since the pandemic.

All in all, it seems that the private sector – especially industry – views this administration as a government they can work well with – and has reflected it in their appetite to hire new workers. The industry sector grew by 869,000 jobs year-on-year, a sign that businesses in capital-intensive sectors are digging in and producing more.

The agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sectors grew by a combined 555,000 jobs. While I find agriculture jobs growth a net positive, however, I do have some concerns about its magnitude. The agriculture and forestry sector created 715,000 new jobs year-on-year, even as total approved investments in the sector were only at P3.8 billion during in 2022. Fisheries, meanwhile, lost some 159,000 jobs.

I worry that these new agri-sector jobs might not yet be high-quality jobs backed by strong investments. Total employed persons in the agriculture and forestry sector still total to 11 million – 21.8 percent of all employed persons in a sector that produces just 8.9 percent of the economy.

We need to back our agriculture sector with sustained public and private investment. On the public sector side, the Department of Agriculture under Secretary Tiu-Laurel has been working on massive and modern post-harvest facilities and value-chain interventions, which will improve economic output – and therefore wages – in that sector. But, as investment figures show, we really need to open up our agriculture sector to more capital. This is the whole point of my strong advocacy for changes in the Constitution: no half-hearted charter amendments, but a full-on confrontation of under-investment in land.

On services, I remain convinced that we are undercounting those who work from home for foreign clients, as individual service contractors. We might be able to find some of them among those whom the PSA counted as not looking for employment and therefore out of the labor force. I hope the PSA can review its policies and practices, as it did when we first counted the BPO sector in our GDP reports around the time of President Arroyo, and institutionalized the same in 2013 under NSCB Resolution No. 2, Series 2013. As far as creating economic output goes, they are as good as OFWs in earning foreign currency, but as good as resident workers in generating consumption – the best of both worlds.

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