Firms still hiring despite mixed outlook

Companies said they hired more staff last month on the back of healthy demand.
Companies said they hired more staff last month on the back of healthy demand.ST FILE PHOTO

Business conditions improved last month as companies stepped up hiring and increased output to meet stronger demand, according to new data yesterday.

The Nikkei Singapore Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) survey showed a headline reading of 52.8 for November following the 50.5 recorded for October.

A PMI survey gauges production, hiring and general sentiment in the corporate sector. A reading above 50 implies expansion in activity while a reading below 50 suggests contraction.

The private sector registered further growth in output in November, marking more than four unbroken years of expansion.

This was partly because of increases in new orders, which grew the fastest since January 2014, while new export orders grew for the third straight month.

The survey, compiled by data analytics firm IHS Markit using data from more than 400 companies, comes just days after a similar poll by the Singapore Institute of Purchasing & Materials Management put November's manufacturing PMI reading at a better-than-expected 50.2.

Companies said they hired more staff last month on the back of healthy demand.

IHS Markit said in a release yesterday: "Though only moderate overall, the rate of job creation was the fastest since June 2014. A number of survey respondents that expanded their workforce numbers attributed the rise to increased employment of part-time staff."

Despite the positive figures, there are still plenty of signs suggesting a mixed outlook for Singapore companies.

"The increase in part-time employment, as a number of firms cited, casts doubt over the strength of the business outlook in the coming months," IHS Markit economist Bernard Aw told The Straits Times.

Singapore's trade-reliant economy contracted 2 per cent quarter on quarter in the three months which ended September amid the slowing global economy, official figures showed late last month.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry has narrowed its growth forecast for this year from 1 to 2 per cent to 1.5 per cent at most, with expansion next year tipped at 1 to 3 per cent.

The jobs market has also been weak, with the overall resident unemployment rate rising from 2.8 per cent to 3 per cent since 2015, the Manpower Ministry revealed recently.

Wong Wei Han

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2016, with the headline 'Firms still hiring despite mixed outlook'. Print Edition | Subscribe