MANILA, December 16, 2003  (STAR) By Rica D. Delfinado - The country’s unemployment rate fell to 10.1 percent in October, a marked improvement over the 12.7 percent level recorded in July, the National Statistics Office (NSO) reported yesterday.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo L. Neri said the latest Labor Force Survey (LFS) reflected the pick-up in economic activity in the third quarter with all sectors generating new jobs.

Citing NSO data, Neri said the economy generated 1.273 million new jobs, with the service sector recording the largest number of new jobs at 633,000, followed by agriculture with 364,000, and the industry sector with 272,000.

"Labor market conditions are expected to improve in the fourth quarter of 2003 and in 2004 as the economy further strengthens," Neri said.

The government statistics office said the number of employed person during the latest survey reached 31.524 million compared to July’s 30.451 million.

The rank of unemployed, on the other hand, went down to 3.554 million in October from a high of 4.399 million in July.

Neri said employment in services, which benefited from sustained growth in private consumption, grew by 4.44 percent to reach 14.9 million in October.

On the other hand, employment in industry which reached 4.95 million posted a turnaround from its contraction in October last year by growing 5.83 percent.

Manufacturing, industry’s largest component, grew by 6.41 percent, employing a total of 3.04 million workers.

The number of employed persons in the agriculture sector went up by 3.22 percent to 11.7 million in October as farm activity picked up in the third quarter, boosted by the recovery in palay production.

Neri attributed agriculture’s better prospects to normal weather conditions and government support as well as the recovery in the global economy which was expected to boost export demand.

Other factors which are expected to firm up the economy and the labor market are the increase in overseas workers’ remittances, higher public construction spending, election-related spending, and the seasonal demand from Christmas-related production of goods and services.

Neri added that the latest labor force survey showed an improvement in the quality of employment as the number of wage and salary workers went up substantially during the review period.

The number of workers who worked 40 hours or more rose by 1.47 million in October from a year ago level.

The number of part-time workers, or those who worked less than 40 hours, meanwhile, dropped 1.4 percent, shedding 159,000 jobs.

The government expects a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of as much as 5.4 percent for the whole of 2003.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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