MANILA— The number of jobless Filipinos fell further in January 2015, showing signs that the country’s labor market is continuously improving and fueling hopes that the better employment figures will sustain recent findings of increased incomes of low-income families, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

The January 2015 Labor Force Survey (LFS) revealed that the figures for employment, unemployment, and underemployment all improved during the period.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported today that employment grew by 2.8 percent to 37.5 million from 36.4 million in the same period last year. This means an additional 1.04 million Filipinos employed from January 2014 to January 2015, almost four times the 281,000 jobs generated in the previous year.

“The labor market got a boost from a stronger growth in all sectors mainly driven by services which grew by 3.9 percent, contributing a 766,000 net employment gain in January 2015,” said Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan.

Moreover, the unemployment rate in January 2015 declined to 6.6 percent from 7.5 percent in January 2014.

“With employment growing faster at 2.8 percent compared to the labor force growth of 1.8 percent and partly due to the stronger growth of services employment, the number of unemployed went down by 334,000 to 2.6 million during the period,” the Cabinet official said.

Notably, all regions posted a decline in unemployment rate during the period. Moreover, unemployment rate among the youth (15-24 years old) dropped to 15.0 percent from 17.3 percent in January 2014.

Likewise, underemployment, which refers to those who are working but wanted more work, went down to 17.5 percent from 19.5 percent a year ago. This translates to a reduction in the number of underemployed workers to 6.5 million in January 2015 from about 7.1 million a year ago.

“For this period, the number of underemployed persons contracted among wage and salary workers, as well as self-employed workers, which possibly means greater availability of more remunerative jobs and more profitable ventures,” said Balisacan, who is also NEDA Director-General.

“From employment gains to reductions in unemployment and underemployment, the labor market is becoming robust, and we hope that this will continue and further benefit the poor, especially as the economy grows faster at a higher trajectory,” Balisacan added.

Thus, he stressed the importance of ensuring that the gains in employment and income are not eroded by high food prices.

“The recent report on poverty highlighted the impacts of high food prices mostly to low-income families. Our significant strides in poverty reduction through better quality jobs and higher incomes must move forward along with cheaper food prices. Elevated rice prices are of particular concern, as rice takes up about 20 percent of the budget of the poor,” said Balisacan.

“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.

Labor and employment data for the January 2015 LFS round still excluded Region 8, in order to be comparable with the labor and employment data released by the PSA in the January 2014 LFS round. The region suffered from devastation by typhoon Yolanda causing labor displacement and thus no survey was conducted in the area last year. An alternative estimate which excludes Leyte only, rather than the whole Region 8, in the January 2015 LFS round shows little effect on the estimate of the national unemployment rate.