Singapore jobless rate rises to decade-high in Q3, but employment growth also up

OVERALL unemployment in Singapore crept up in the third quarter of this year to the highest level since 2009, as more workers were retrenched.

At the same time, employment growth shot up to the highest level since 2014.

This was the mixed picture painted by the latest preliminary figures on jobs released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Thursday.

The overall seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate crept up to 2.3 per cent in September, up from 2.2 per cent in June.

The rate for Singaporeans rose to 3.3 per cent, from 3.2 per cent, while the rate for citizens and permanent residents combined rose to 3.2 per cent, from 3.1 per cent. The September figures for citizen and resident unemployment were the highest in over two years.

Retrenchments rose to 2,900 last quarter, up from 2,320 in the preceding quarter and 2,860 a year ago.

However, total employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, rose by 22,400 from July to September. This is more than three times the growth of 6,200 in the previous quarter, and higher than the growth of 16,700 a year earlier.

This was largely due to 16,100 more people finding work in the services sector, said the ministry.The growth was mainly in community, social and personal services, professional services and information and communications, while the decline in employment in sectors such as wholesale and retail trade was less than in the previous quarter.

The manufacturing sector employed 1,200 more workers, after three consecutive quarters of decline. It is only the fourth time the sector has seen positive employment growth since the start of 2014.

This comes amid higher production in the chemicals, biomedical manufacturing and general manufacturing clusters.

With increasing private and public sector construction activities, 5,300 more people were also employed in construction last quarter. The sector's third consecutive month of expansion comes after 11 months of falling employment.

The MOM said in a statement that while there were still job vacancies available, unemployment rates inched up, pointing to some mismatch in the labour market.

"We urge employers to work with the government to train workers with skills gaps. We also encourage jobseekers to be open to opportunities in other sectors and occupations beyond what they are familiar with," it said.

From January to August this year, about 22,000 jobseekers found jobs through the Adapt and Grow initiative to help Singaporeans gain the skills for better jobs as the economy restructures, said MOM. Close to 12,000 of them were aged 40 and above.