MANILA—The number of unemployed Filipinos went down in July 2015 as the market continues to reflect the continued strength of the economy, but interventions in the agriculture sector must continue to protect El Niño-affected workers, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported today that unemployment rate further eased to 6.5 percent, lower by 0.2 percentage point (ppt) from last year’s 6.7 percent.

“The favorable economic growth of the country certainly drove an encouraging response from the labor market in July 2015. This follows a similar trend in January and April 2015 where unemployment also declined relative to 2014,” said Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan.

He added that for the rest of the year, the country is at par in terms of achieving the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) target of 6.6-6.8 percent for unemployment.

The services sector, which makes up more than half of the total employed, continues to be the top jobs generator. This is followed by the industry sector, backed by strong public and private construction.

A broad-based increase in the number of full-time workers was likewise observed across majority of the production sectors, coupled with a significant decrease in the number of part-time workers. More remunerative and stable wage and salary jobs also increased by 1.5 million of which, 1.1 million workers were from private establishments.

However, the Cabinet official noted that the stellar performance of the two sectors were not enough to offset the debilitating impact of El Niño to the agriculture sector.

“Partly affected by the prolonged dry spell and drought being experienced in some production areas, the sector recorded 877,000 net employment losses in July 2015,” said Balisacan, who is NEDA Director-General.

“The improvement however in the wage and salary jobs and in the number of full-time workers imply that previous agriculture workers may have obtained stable full-time, and mostly wage and salary employment for the period, mostly in services,” he added.

Meanwhile, underemployment increased to 20.8 percent relative to the 18.3 percent registered in the same period in 2014.

“The rise in underemployment for the period has been driven by full-time workers who still want additional hours of work, whereas the number of underemployed part-time workers actually decreased by 6.0 percent, accounting for 263,000 people,” said Balisacan.

Despite these challenges, positive shifts were mostly noted in the labor market. Mean hours of work significantly improved indicating that economic activity has picked-up for the period.

To sustain this, Balisacan said that government must ensure that the gains in raising both the level and quality of employment and gains are sustained.  Citing the likely stronger impact on the economy of El Niño in the coming months, Balisacan stressed the importance of a well-coordinated, direct and proactive set of mitigating measures for affected workers in the agriculture sector.

The Roadmap to Address the Impact of El Nino (RAIN) is currently being drafted by NEDA as the lead agency in the Task Force on El Niño.

“Over the medium term, government efforts should help lift the constraints to sustained, decent and quality job-generating growth by increasing competition and reducing the cost of doing business,” said Balisacan .