Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Million Jobs in 2005?

Surprise, surprise but it seems that the economy indeed had produced a significant number of jobs in October (32.867 million) when compared with the figures in the same figure last year (31.741) million. That’s a difference of 1.135 million, an indication that more Filipinos got jobs during the time when people from the National Statistics Office knocked on the doors of people and asked them about what they did for a living. If these figures are true then we have one more reason to rejoice this Christmas.

But wait a minute. A third of the 1.135 million “incremental jobs” in October were contributed by the agricultural sector. That’s 390,000 more employment in the farms! Now, that’s really surprising because in the first three quarters this year, the agricultural sector grew only by 1.1 percent. That figure meant that agricultural activities were practically stagnant in the said period. So why is there an impressive growth in agriculture’s job creation?

A check with the Department of Agriculture says indicates that many rice farmers in the country were harvesting in October and that some who had harvested earlier are doing land preparation activities. Farmers are apparently taking advantage of the higher amount of rainfall in October. That means that the “jobs” that were recorded by NSO were probably seasonal ones. That explains why these jobs are mainly unpaid family labor (305,000 “jobs”)—the farmer, his wife, and some kids who have to work their butts off after a lousy production in the first two harvests due to bad weather.

Another surprise: the industry sector actually grew decently at 4.6 percent in the first three quarters this year yet it barely contributed (only 6,000 jobs) to the employment numbers. This must be another case of jobless growth. Let’s hazard a guess: the country’s export sector barely grew in the first three quarters this year. Also, personal consumption expenditure has been flat this year because families of overseas workers decided to save their money rather than splurge. Seeing this trend, the country’s factory managers saw that there’s no need to hire workers. Some even fired thousands of them. That is reflected in the “wage and salary” component the industry that actually lost 36,000 jobs. What made up for this decline in industrial jobs are “own account” workers, probably small entrepreneurs doing some “industrial” activities, including small scale mining and construction. Definitely, the figures say the industry sector has not fully recovered.

Expectedly, the services sector contributed 739,000 incremental jobs, half of which (426,000) came from wholesale and retail trade. Other contributors to the job growth in the services sector include hotels and restaurants; transport, storage, and communications; and real estate, renting and related services. About 47 percent of the incremental jobs generated by the wholesale and retail trade were accounted for by “own account” jobs. These are probably small entrepreneurs who started to set up bazaars in preparation for the Christmas season.

Looking at the report, one can sense that the labor force survey does not really capture a lot of things in the economy. For instance, leaders of the business process outsourcing (BPO) that includes call centers has been saying that the industry is growing 70 percent each year in the last five years. Yet the job growth in the transportation, storage and communications sector hardly reflects this. In fact, the “wage and salary” component even declined. One can sense the survey does not capture the dynamics of this industry.

With this survey, some politicians or government functionaries may yet crow that the economy has just created more than a million jobs. This interpretation is not warranted. The survey simply say there are 1.13 million more employed persons in October this year than when compared to the same month last year. It doesn’t capture how many jobs were created or lost. What the Department of Labor and Employment does is compute the average of the incremental jobs per quarterly survey to come up with an estimate of “new jobs created” statistics. This is wrong. To get the figure on new jobs, the NSO may have to do a payroll survey among employers, complemented by establishment and household surveys. We don’t do it for lack of money.

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