MANILA— The country’s labor market continued to record positive gains in October 2015 as unemployment rate fell to its lowest in a decade and both employment and underemployment figures further improved, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported today that the country’s unemployment rate dropped further to 5.7 percent in October 2015 from 6.0 percent in the same month last year, making it the new lowest unemployment rate recorded in the past decade.

“This is also the first time that unemployment rate dropped below 6.0 percent. In fact, for the full year 2015, the country did better than the Philippine Development Plan target of 6.6-6.8 percent for unemployment. This is due to faster employment growth in the services and industry sectors,” said Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan.

The latest round of the Labor Force Survey also revealed that labor force participation rate dipped to 63.4 percent in October 2015, mainly coming from the young working age population (15-24 years old).

“The decision among the 15- to 24-year-old population not to look for work during the period could be because they chose to pursue higher education or undergo training, as indicated by the increase in tertiary education enrolment rate, as well as the increase in technical vocational engagements among the youth,” Balisacan said.

The latest LFS also showed lower underemployment rate and improvement in employment rate during the period. The underemployment rate in October 2015 went down to 17.6 percent relative to the 18.7 percent in October 2014. This reflects an estimated 413,000 reduction in the number of employed persons who wanted more work during the period.

“The largest decline in the number of underemployment was among wage and salary workers who worked in private establishments and those who are self-employed without any paid employee,” Balisacan said. The Cabinet official also noted that the number of part-time workers seeking additional hours of work decreased by 7.9 percent, which is equivalent to 334,000 less underemployed workers who work less than 40 hours per week.

Similarly, employment rate grew by 0.4 percent to reach 39 million in October 2015, owing to  stronger employment growth in both services and industry sectors. The number of workers in the services sector grew by 2.1 percent, or an additional 440,000 workers employed; while workers in the industry sector grew by 2.8 percent, or an additional 169,000 Filipinos workers employed during the period.

“This positive trend in the labor market is also reinforced by an improvement in the quality of jobs generated, as majority of the labor force found remunerative work and full-time employment,” said Balisacan, who is also NEDA Director-General.

Wage and salary workers increased by 573,000. In terms of hours of work, the share of full-time employment to total employment increased to 65.2 percent from 63.7 percent. Meanwhile, part-time employment went down to 34.2 percent from 35.4 percent in October 2014.

“For these to continue, the government must ensure that the gains and efforts to focus on quality employment are further sustained. We need to sustain public investments in education and training to improve labor productivity and capacities. At the same time, we need to sustain the momentum of fiscal spending, particularly in infrastructure development, to boost economic growth and employment in agiculture and industry sectors,” said Balisacan

However, as employment growth in the agriculture sector was dampened by weather disturbances, he stressed the importance of proper implementation of the Roadmap for Addressing the Impact of El Niño (RAIN) to prepare affected workers in the sector. Balisacan said that strategies under the RAIN include production support to encourage the planting of high-yielding, multi-stress resistant varieties. Crop shifting and even work shifting, depending on the likely effect of the El Nino, are also part of the RAIN strategies, he said.