The total number of people employed in Singapore fell in the third quarter of this year, mainly due to a decline in the number of work permit holders in the construction and manufacturing sectors.
As these foreign workers typically do not stay on without a job, the unemployment rate remained stable at 2.1 per cent last month.
In all, employment shrank by 3,300 between July and September, pushing total employment down to 3,670,200, preliminary figures released by the Manpower Ministry yesterday showed.
This is just 0.8 per cent higher than a year ago, and is the second time since the 2009 global financial crisis that employment has contracted.
The first time was in the first three months of last year, when employment fell by 6,100.
Manufacturing shed workers for the eighth quarter in a row. Likewise, the construction sector posted a decline as it is seeing fewer private sector projects.
In both cases, the main group affected by the slowdown are lower-skilled foreigners on work permits, said the ministry.
Unemployment among Singaporeans and permanent residents dipped to 2.9 per cent last month, from 3 per cent in June. Similarly, for Singaporeans, the figure slipped to 3 per cent, from 3.1 per cent.
Fewer people were also laid off in the third quarter: 4,100 compared with 4,800 in the previous quarter.
But with "subdued global economic conditions and internal economic restructuring", more workers were affected than the 3,460 who lost their jobs in the third quarter a year ago, said the ministry.
On Tuesday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore warned that the economy is not expected to improve significantly next year.
The challenge is how best to help out-of-work Singaporeans find jobs quickly, said National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower.
"(It's) not going to be easy because of new kinds of jobs and new skills required and new mindsets needed on the part of both employers and employees," he said.
SEE TOP OF THE NEWS