Singapore's total employment in Q2 sees biggest quarterly contraction on record

SINGAPORE'S total employment saw its largest quarterly contraction on record in the second quarter of 2020, as the country entered a "circuit-breaker" period to curb the spread of Covid-19, according to preliminary data released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Wednesday.

The total number of people working between April and June shrank by 121,800, a more-than-fourfold fall compared to the 25,700 seen in Q1. This brings the total employment decline for the first six months of 2020 to 147,500.

The contraction in employment was broad-based across the manufacturing, services and construction sectors, MOM said.

It added that within the services sector, the contraction was sharpest in food & beverage services, retail trade, arts, entertainment & recreation, and education.

Retrenchments also doubled in Q2 to 6,700, compared with 3,220 in Q1. MOM noted that while the number of retrenchments has surpassed the peak seen during the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2003 at 5,510, it is still lower than that seen during the Global Financial Crisis at 12,760.

The overall unemployment rate also rose to 2.9 per cent in June, up from 2.4 per cent in March. Resident unemployment rose from 3.3 per cent to 3.9 per cent during this period, while citizen unemployment went up from 3.5 per cent to 4 per cent.

While the Singapore economy began its phased reopening in early June, the labour outlook remains soft, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo told reporters during a briefing.

"It is reasonable for us to adopt a more cautious attitude, and that is to expect that it hasn't bottomed," she said.

"Of course, it all depends on the sentiments of the companies within the economy, some are resuming activity, but even as they resume activity, they may ask their existing staff to take on more responsibilities rather than to proceed with hiring," Mrs Teo added.

Separately, some 13,000 company attachments will be made available to local mid-career jobseekers from Aug 1 through the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme, Workforce Singapore said.

Attachments under the programme will be between four months and nine months, with participants receiving a monthly training allowance of between S$1,400 and S$3,000, of which 80 per cent will be funded by the government.