Job outlook remains gloomy: Analysts

Office workers walking along Shenton Way on April 14, 2015.
Office workers walking along Shenton Way on April 14, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

While unemployment figures have stayed stable, situation not likely to improve any time soon, they say

Latest labour market figures show unemployment has remained stable, but analysts do not foresee significant improvements in the months ahead.

The ongoing slowdown in the economy and the harsh impact of economic restructuring have roiled the labour market, said DBS economist Irvin Seah.

But the situation is likely to stay stable in the short run as he does not expect economic growth to worsen significantly in the next six to nine months. "We may have reached bottom," he added.

OCBC economist Selena Ling, however, sees the unemployment rate rising in the fourth quarter and next year. "With external headwinds and sluggish domestic business conditions, hiring intentions will have to be adjusted downwards."

The Manpower Ministry's quarterly preliminary figures, released yesterday, show unemployment staying stable at 2.1 per cent last month. Total employment, however, shrank with the construction sector shedding the most: 5,200 in the third quarter. Many of the affected workers were work permit holders, the ministry said.

Singapore Contractors Association president Kenneth Loo said the effects of the various property cooling measures, from 2009 to 2013, have caused the volume of work to drop.

"How long it lasts depends on the economic situation," he added.

SIM University economist Walter Theseira said the ups and downs in employment in Singapore tend to have a greater impact on foreigners. But the knock-on effect of foreigners leaving can hit Singaporeans working in domestic-oriented sectors, such as housing agents or people running canteens for foreign shipyard workers, he said.

In a prolonged downturn, locals will be affected by job cuts as well, and one worry is the struggle the unemployed face in landing a job because of a skills mismatch - a problem the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) highlighted this week.

Only about four in 10 resident professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) who lost their jobs in the first three months of the year found work by June. This, despite more than half of the job openings in the first half of the year being for PMETs, said MAS.

A recent report by professional networking site LinkedIn said the skills in demand were in areas such as cloud computing, data analytics and public policy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2016, with the headline 'Job outlook remains gloomy: Analysts'. Print Edition | Subscribe