JOB MARKERT IN SINGAPORE SHOWS SIGNS OF 'SLOWING MOMENTUM' AS RETRENCHMENT RISES
SINGAPORE: Employment continued to rise in the third quarter but Singapore's job market recovery showed signs of a "slowing momentum", the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Friday (October 28, 2022), as retrenchments swung up and the unemployment rate climbed.
In advance estimates for the quarter, MOM said total employment-excluding migrant domestic workers - rose 75,600 from the previous quarter.
But there was a "slight uptick" in unemployment rates and an increase in retrenchments, though both indicators were still on a par with or below pre-COVID-19 levels.
"The nation's transition to living with COVID-19, along with the progressive removal of safe management measures and border restrictions, has supported the labour market's recovery in recent quarters, though there are signs of a slowing momentum," said MOM.
"In the coming months, a deteriorating global economic environment, higher global inflation, as well as geopolitical tensions, will impact the labour market," it added.
The number of retrenchments rose to 1,600 in the third quarter, almost double the previous quarter's all-time low of 830. Of these, 1,100 were in the services sector and 500 in manufacturing.
Retrenchments in services primarily arose from business reorganisation or restructuring, while those in manufacturing mainly resulted from the discontinuation of product lines amid a global slowdown in manufacturing, MOM said.
"Firms may also be restructuring business operations and laying off employees in anticipation of a weakened global economy, against the backdrop of high inflation, tighter central bank monetary policies, and geopolitical uncertainties," it said.
None, or a negligible number, were retrenched in the construction sector.
However, the ministry said unemployment rates remained within the pre-COVID-19 range, while retrenchment figures were a step down from levels before the pandemic, based on quarterly averages for 2018 and 2019.
It also said there are some early indications that the rate of growth in employment is slowing amid lower economic growth.
This, even as the 75,600 figure outstrips the growth of 66,500 in the previous quarter and is the highest since at least 1991, based on MON data.
Non-residents accounted for most of the expansion, as non-resident employment continued its rebound towards its pre-COVID-19 level, especially in construction and manufacturing as those workers make up a larger share of both sectors.
The ministry added that more residents - comprising Singaporeans and permanent residents - found employment, but the pace of increase eased compared with the previous quarter.
"Resident employment increases were mainly in outward-oriented sectors such as information and communications, professional services, and financial services."
According to the report, employment growth in construction increased by over 20 per cent to 30,500, from 25,200 the previous quarter - outpacing the increasing in growth seen between the first and second quarters of 2022.
But employment growth in manufacturing declined modestly to 12,100, from 12,400 the previous quarter.
The pace of growth in the services sector also declined between the second and third quarters of 2022, compared with between the first and second quarters.
Meanwhile, unemployment rates edged up slightly in September to 2 per cent overall-2.9 per cent for residents and 3.1 per cent for Singaporeans - from a six-year low in August.
Over the quarter, the number of unemployed residents rose from 69,300 in June to 70,900 in September.
On the hiring outlook, MOM said: "While forward-looking data shows that overall hiring sentiments among firms remain optimistic, there could be some unevenness in growth across sectors in the final quarter of 2022."
Demand in tourism-and consumer-related sectors is expected to remain robust, supported by the recovery of international visitor arrivals and year-end festive hiring.
It also said that non-resident employment is expected to continue to recover, as employers backfill their vacancies.
MOM also noted that the proportion of companies that intend to raise wages in the next three months held steady, suggesting that businesses remain prudent about raising wages.
This means the risk of a wage-price spiral, in which higher salaries cause inflation because the price of goods are bidded up, remains low for now, said the ministry.
"For wage growth to be sustainable, wages should rise in tandem only with improvements in workers' productivity and skills," said MOM in the report.
The finalised Q3 labour market report, which will provide more details, including the breakdown of resident and non-resident employment, sectoral breakdowns and number of job vacancies, is due for release in mid-December.
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