SINGAPORE: The overall unemployment rate in Singapore inched up slightly in the third quarter of this year, even as total employment growth more than tripled from the previous quarter.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose slightly in September to 2.3 per cent from the previous quarter's 2.2 per cent, according to data released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Thursday (Dec 12).
The jobless rate for residents also grew to 3.2 per cent from the previous quarter's 3.1 per cent, with unemployment for Singaporeans inching up to 3.3 per cent from 3.2 per cent.
MOM noted however that total employment (excluding foreign domestic workers) increased by 21,700 in the third quarter of 2019, which is more than triple the previous quarter's growth of 6,200. It also improved from a year ago, when it grew by 16,700.
The bulk of total employment growth came from the services sector, led by modern services, community, social & personal services, as well as administrative & support services.
The majority of increase in these services sectors went to locals, said MOM.
Meanwhile, the seasonally adjusted number of job vacancies declined to 42,200 in September from 47,700 in June.
Job opportunities however remain available, said MOM, particularly for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) in the services sectors.
Speaking on Monday ahead of the release, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that the growth in employment suggests that "there is still some resilience in the labour market”.
However, she added that the unemployment rate grew as well because while employers are still looking for people, particularly in the services sector, they are also more cautious in hiring. Jobseekers will take a longer time to secure a role, therefore contributing to a rise in unemployment, Mrs Teo said.
Retrenchments grew slightly to 2,430 in the third quarter of this year, compared to the 2,320 in the previous quarter.
However, this was lower than the 2,860 from a year ago.
MOM said that the top reason cited for retrenchments in the third quarter of this year was business restructuring and reorganisation.
On what the labour outlook would be like going forward, Mrs Teo said she “would still be quite cautious” as the number of job vacancies showed that “confidence is still not quite so strong”.
While the number of vacancies have fluctuated each quarter, the quality of jobs is improving, she added.
Addressing the issue of jobs and skills mismatch, Mrs Teo said that it will not go away. In fact, Singapore must expect it “if we are transforming our economy at a fast enough rate”.
“Then the job skills mismatch must actually enlarge. And we must see that as an opportunity,” she said.
Mrs Teo added: “When businesses innovate, the job requirements will change. And because we have a good system in place to help people acquire the new skills that will make them effective in these new job roles, then the innovation story becomes one that is possible in Singapore.”