Four key findings from the Singapore third quarter Labour Report

Preliminary data showed a slight uptick in Singapore's job market for Q3 of 2017. Here are four key takeaways.

Singapore’s labour market remained steady in the third quarter of 2017, according to the advance release of the Ministry on Manpower’s (MOM) latest quarterly Labour Market report.

The initial data showed a slightly positive trend, with employment contraction and unemployment softening.

Below are the detailed findings.

        1. Overall and citizen unemployment rates declined, while the resident unemployment rate remained unchanged

Preliminary estimates showed that quarter-on-quarter, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined slightly overall (2.2% in June to 2.1% in September) and for citizens (3.3% in June to 3.2% in September), while it remained unchanged for residents (3.1%).

Compared with a year ago, the overall unemployment rate was the same while the resident and citizen unemployment rates remained higher.

        2. Decline in total employment has been easing, due mainly to continued job growth in services sector

The decline in total employment, excluding Foreign Domestic Workers, has been softening since the beginning of 2017.It contracted by a smaller extent (-2,500) in the third quarter of 2017, compared to the previous two quarters (-9,400 in the first quarter and -7,900 in the second quarter).

The drop is also smaller than the same quarter a year ago (3Q 2016: -4,200).

The decline in the third quarter of 2017 was mainly due to a decrease in Work Permit Holders in Marine and Construction, a result of low oil prices and continued weakness in construction activities respectively.

However, this was partly offset by the pickup in employment in the services sector, including Professional Services, Information & Communications, Administrative & Support Services, Finance & Insurance and Accommodation.

Seasonal hiring, says Patrick Tay, Assistant Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress, will also boost overall employment.

        3. Retrenchments were unchanged over the quarter, and remained lower than a year ago

The initial data showed that a similar number of workers were retrenched in the third quarter of 2017 at 3,600, compared to the previous quarter at 3,640.

The drop is also less than a year ago (4,220).

This is the third consecutive quarter where retrenchments remained lower than the corresponding quarter a year ago. Retrenchments edged down in Manufacturing, and remained similar in Construction and Services, compared with the previous quarter.

Tay predicts that the total number of layoffs for the whole of 2017 is on well on track to be lower than last year.

“However, we will continue to see pockets of layoffs in the last quarter due to ongoing restructuring, re-organisation and re-strategisation by companies faced with disruption, digitalisation and changing demand patterns including the oil prices,” he adds.

        4. Labour demand to pick up in the final quarter of 2017

MOM forecasts that labour demand is expected to pick up in the fourth quarter of 2017, in line with seasonal hiring as seen in previous years.

Hiring will remain cautious in sectors such as Construction and Marine, but job opportunities will continue to be available in other sectors, particularly Infocomms & Media, Finance & Insurance, Healthcare, Professional Services, and Wholesale Trade.

Beyond the numbers

As the resident unemployment rate could remain elevated in the medium term due to on-going economic restructuring, a shift in the composition of the resident labour force and job-skills mismatch, MOM and tripartite partners will continue to support job-seekers and at-risk workers.

Together with the tripartite partners, MOM and Workforce Singapore will press on with efforts to help job-seekers and affected workers reskill and seek new employment opportunities.

“The labour movement will continue to work closely with our tripartite partners and industry stakeholders to endeavour in ensuring employers and workers embrace change, adopt the right mindset & stay able, agile and adaptable,” says Tay. 

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