Total employment grows for first time after four straight quarterly declines, jobless rate eases but still elevated, says Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower

MOM’s advance labour market report for the first quarter of this year also showed that retrenchments dropped for a second consecutive quarter to a level usually observed in 2018 and 2019. — TODAY pic
MOM’s advance labour market report for the first quarter of this year also showed that retrenchments dropped for a second consecutive quarter to a level usually observed in 2018 and 2019. — TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, April 28 — For the first time since Covid-19 struck, the total number of people in employment in Singapore — excluding foreign domestic workers — has expanded after four straight quarters of declines, early estimates from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) showed.

Unemployment rates have also eased, although they remain “far from pre-pandemic levels”, MOM said today. 

MOM’s advance labour market report for the first quarter of this year also showed that retrenchments dropped for a second consecutive quarter to a level usually observed in 2018 and 2019.  

Here are the key figures:

Employment

The total number of people in employment here, excluding foreign domestic workers, expanded by 4,800 in the first quarter, with the growth in employment among Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) outpacing the declines in non-resident employment.

This is the first increase in total employment since the fourth quarter of 2019, when it expanded by 19,900. 

MOM said that the bulk of employment increases were in the services industry, with sectors such as information and communications, financial services and professional services recording continued employment expansion.

The construction sector, too, saw a gentle rebound in employment in the first quarter — adding 200 workers — as the contraction in non-resident employment moderated significantly.

Even so, MOM said that number of people employed in manufacturing continued to shrink by 4,400, though it took place at a slower pace compared with the decline of 10,800 in the final quarter of last year. 

“In general, resident employment growth was broad-based, and contraction in non-resident employment was also observed in all sectors,” said the ministry.

Unemployment

Since peaking in September last year, unemployment rates have fallen steadily over the past two quarters. 

Yet they remain elevated compared with pre-pandemic rates.

In March, the overall unemployment rate dropped from three per cent to 2.9 per cent.

The jobless rate for Singaporeans and PRs dipped from 4.1 to four per cent, while the rate among citizens was 4.2 per cent, down from 4.3 per cent. 

In September last year, the overall unemployment rate was 3.5 per cent, while the jobless rate was 4.8 per cent for residents and 4.9 per cent for citizens.

Retrenchments

The number of retrenchments peaked in the third quarter of last year at 9,120, but fell to 2,100 in the first quarter of this year — the second quarter of declines.  

MOM said that it expects the incidence of retrenchments to drop from 2.8 per 1,000 employees in the final quarter of last year to 1.1 per 1,000 employees in the first three months of this year.  

Even though retrenchments have fallen to a level usually observed before the pandemic, MOM said that there could still be pockets of job displacement owing to continued restructuring and reorganisation.

Aubeck Kam, the ministry’s permanent secretary, said that despite the improvements, the labour market is still not back to its pre-pandemic conditions.

“We are mindful that there might be pockets of displacement, where the (job) matches are more difficult, and the agencies are working hard to address them,” he said. — TODAY

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