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Philippine jobless rate eases as economy reopens from lockdown

MANILA, Dec 3 (Reuters) - The Philippines’ unemployment rate in October eased further from a record-high hit in April, official data showed on Thursday, as the government gradually lifted coronavirus curbs to open up an economy that sank deeper into recession in the third quarter.

The Southeast Asian country, which was one of the region’s fastest growing economies before the pandemic, is still struggling to contain COVID-19 infections and prop up battered consumer confidence and spending.

October’s 8.7% unemployment rate, equivalent to 3.8 million jobless people, was nearly double the 4.6% in the same period last year but below the record 17.6% in April.

The average jobless rate for 2020, based on four surveys, was 10.4%, or 4.5 million people, the highest since 2005, the statistics agency said.

Industries that posted the largest drop in employment include entertainment and recreation, accommodation and food services, real estate activities, transportation and manufacturing.

The unemployment rate in Manila, which accounts for 40% of the country’s economic output, was at 12.4% owing to restrictions on movement through transportation curbs, national statistician Claire Dennis Mapa told a news conference.

President Rodrigo Duterte in June relaxed the country’s lockdown, one of the world’s longest and strictest, to allow more businesses to reopen, albeit at reduced capacity.

Duterte on Monday said that partial coronavirus restrictions will remain in the capital region until the end of the year, urging people to limit Christmas gatherings to prevent a post-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases. (Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales Editing by Ed Davies)

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