SINGAPORE: The labour market in Singapore continued to improve in the third quarter of this year, but the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) warned of early signs that the momentum was easing in its latest report on Thursday (Dec 15).
Retrenchments were also up slightly from the previous quarter, with tech firms laying off more workers.
Total employment continued to expand by 75,900 in the third quarter, which was more than the 66,500 in the previous quarter. It is now 1.7 per cent above the 2019 level.
The number of non-residents workers increased by 71,100, while resident employment went up by 4,800.
MOM said that non-resident employment grew more quickly as it has yet to recover to its pre-COVID level. Resident employment is 4.4 per cent above the 2019 level.
The increase in foreign workers was concentrated in manufacturing and construction, while resident employment growth was led by sectors such as financial services, professional services, accommodation and information & communications.
LABOUR MARKET EASES
With rising total employment and significant uncertainties in the economic outlook, the total number of job vacancies decreased in September to 108,200 but it remained high.
The ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons has thus decreased to 2.20, with the bulk of the job vacancies in manufacturing and construction, and the services industries. These include information & communications, financial services, professional services and health & social services.
MOM said that although the labour market continues to see improvement and labour demand remains robust, there are downside risks going forward.
In a Facebook post, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said that uncertain geopolitical conditions and higher global inflation will weigh on the labour market going forward.
"I encourage employers and workers to make full use of Government programmes to accelerate the pace of transformation to remain competitive and resilient as we look forward to a continued positive labour market outlook in the new year ahead," said Dr Tan.
National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Assistant Secretary-General Desmond Choo said the growth in total employment and the high number of vacancies point to the robustness of the labour market, which is generally in line with sentiments on the ground.
"This said, we take a cautious view of the labour market in 2023 as global economic uncertainties weigh on business outlook and job creation," said Mr Choo in a Facebook post.
Jobs relating to sustainability and data analytics will continue to grow in demand as companies seek out talent to leverage these trends, he said, adding that workers should continue to upskill themselves to take on these opportunities.
There are also opportunities in sectors such as hospitality or accommodation, as well as transport, where labour shortages have persisted.
Mr Choo said it is imperative for companies to think about longer-term growth, even as they juggle more immediate day-to-day operations.
"Business transformation to enhance capabilities and improve productivity through innovation, in tandem with workforce transformation through job redesign and upskilling, will help to bring about a win-win approach for both businesses and workers."
RETRENCHMENTS UP IN TECH SECTOR
There were 1,120 retrenchments, up from a record low of 830 in the previous quarter. This increase came mostly from technology firms, which retrenched 460 people, up from 110 in Q2.
However, vacancies in the sector remained high, suggesting that these retrenchments were a consequence of restructuring efforts within the sector, said MOM.
The percentage of retrenched residents who found employment within six months post-retrenchment is comparable to pre-COVID rates.
MOM said that the number of employees placed on short work-week or temporary layoffs rose to 920 from 600 in the last quarter, but remained low compared to pre-pandemic levels.
The overall unemployment rate remained below pre-pandemic level at 2 per cent. Resident unemployment was at 2.8 per cent, and the citizen unemployment rate was 3 per cent.
The pre-COVID quarterly average unemployment rate in 2018/2019 was 2.2 per cent at the overall.