Singapore retrenchments, unemployment rate rise in Q3, labour market shows signs of improvement

Resident employment has risen to 2.34 million in September this year, just slightly below the 2.36 million in December 2019, which was before the Covid-19 pandemic started, according to latest data from the Ministry of Manpower. — TODAY pic
Resident employment has risen to 2.34 million in September this year, just slightly below the 2.36 million in December 2019, which was before the Covid-19 pandemic started, according to latest data from the Ministry of Manpower. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Oct 30 — The number of retrenchments and the unemployment rate in Singapore continued rising in the third quarter of this year even though the city-state exited from a two-month circuit breaker in June which halted most economic activities. 

Despite this, the Ministry of Manpower’s latest labour market report released today, had some silver linings: Resident employment has started growing and the rise in the unemployment rate has slowed. 

Speaking during a media briefing held via video conferencing, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that the third quarter figures are “a source of relief” given that there was no guarantee that companies will resume hiring once the economy reopened after the circuit breaker. 

However, she warned that there may be more retrenchments and that the rebound in resident employment in the third quarter may not be sustained in the quarters ahead. 

Slight ‘reprieve’ in the third quarter 

The MOM report said that slightly over 9,000 workers were retrenched in the third quarter, higher than the 8,130 in the second quarter which was when the circuit breaker was imposed to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

This is also higher than the peak recorded during other recessions except during the global financial crisis when close to 13,000 were retrenched in the first quarter of 2009. 

While retrenchments rose, it went up at a slower pace than compared with the rate in the second quarter. 

Unemployment rate also increased but at a slower pace in the third quarter, rising between 0.1 and 0.2 percentage points in September compared to 0.3 to 0.4 in previous months. 

Resident employment has risen to 2.34 million in September this year, just slightly below the 2.36 million in December 2019, which was before the Covid-19 pandemic started. 

Teo said the growth in local employment was a result of job matching efforts by the authorities as well as the backfilling of job roles that were shed during the circuit breaker. 

MOM also said in a press release today that resident employment has rebounded with the phased reopening of Singapore’s economy, in particular with the resumption of business activities in the services sector.

This slight “reprieve” in the third quarter, however, requires effort to be sustained and should not be assumed to be a given, said Teo. 

“We have gotten ourselves to a level where we (the) ship is more stabilised, but we need to put in the effort to keep sailing to the destination, which is to bring down unemployment, bring back sustained local employment to where it was previously,” she added. 

Labour market statistics at a glance

Employment:

Number of total jobs lost in third quarter: 26,900 (less than the 103,800 jobs lost in the second quarter)

While resident employment grew, there was a contraction in non-resident employment 

Construction and manufacturing sectors suffered the biggest cuts

Employment opportunities picked up in the food and beverage sector, as well as community, social and personal services sector

Unemployment rate:

112,500 unemployed residents in September of which 97,700 are citizens 

Overall unemployment rate in September: 3.6 per cent (3.4 per cent in August)

Resident unemployment rate in September: 4.7 per cent (4.6 per cent in August)

Citizen unemployment rate in September: 4.9 per cent (4.7 per cent in August) 

The pace of increase was slower as the rate only increased between 0.1 and 0.2 percentage points in September

Previous months saw a 0.3 to 0.4 percentage point increase

Retrenchment:

Number of retrenchments in third quarter: 9,100 (8,130 in second quarter)

A smaller rise in retrenchments this quarter compared to the almost 5,000 jump in the number of retrenchments in the second quarter

Retrenchments expected to rise in the air transport, as well as arts, entertainment and recreation sectors

Construction sector likely to see a decline in retrenchments with more activities resuming after the circuit breaker — TODAY

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