Singapore retrenchments fall to 5-year low in Q1 as job vacancies rise

[SINGAPORE] The labour market continued to show slight improvements in the first quarter of 2018, with retrenchment figures falling to a five-year low and the number of job openings on the rise.

Statistics released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Wednesday showed that 2,320 workers were laid off in the first quarter of this year, a drop from 4,000 in the same quarter last year.

This is higher than the MOM's initial estimates of 2,100. But it remained difficult for some groups of people to get back into a job.

The re-entry rate for residents in the first quarter - which is the share of residents who were laid off in the third quarter of last year and found work within six months - was 61 per cent, lower than 64 per cent in the same quarter last year.

Groups that saw below-average re-entry rates include professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), and those who are 50 and older.

The long-term unemployment rate was 0.7 per cent as of March this year, down from 0.8 per cent a year earlier. This measures the share of the resident labour force who have been unemployed for at least 25 weeks. Overall, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the first quarter improved to 2.0 per cent, down from 2.2 per cent a year earlier.

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For Singaporeans, the rate in March was 3.0 per cent while the rate for Singaporeans and permanent residents combined was 2.8 per cent - down from 3.5 per cent and 3.2 per cent respectively a year earlier.

For the first time since March 2016, there were more job openings than unemployed people. The seasonally adjusted ratio of vacancies to unemployed people improved to 1.04, up from 0.81 the previous year.

The number of vacancies, measured among the public sector and private sector companies with at least 25 staff, also went up to 53,900. This figure was 46,800 a year ago.

More than half of the vacancies in March this year were for PMETs, mainly in sectors such as information and communications , electronics and professional services. Openings for non-PMETs were led by transportation and storage and community, social and personal services.

Total employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, grew slightly by 400 in the first quarter of this year from the previous quarter. MOM said this was led by sectors such as community, social and personal services, finance and insurance, information and communications, as well as transportation and storage.

This helped to offset the decline in employment in manufacturing and construction, which saw employment shrink by 3,800 and 5,600 respectively in the first quarter of 2018.

Overall demand labour demand is expected to expand this year, but this will be uneven across sectors, said MOM.

Job opportunities available in service sectors like healthcare, logistics and wholesale trade, it said, while the construction and marine shipyard sectors are expected to remain cautious in hiring.