More lost their jobs last year but unemployment still low

Office workers crossing Maxwell Road in the central business district area.
Office workers crossing Maxwell Road in the central business district area. PHOTO: ST FILE

In what could be a sign of worse things to come, more workers lost their jobs last year amid weaker economic conditions, although unemployment remained low.

A total of 15,580 workers were laid off last year, the fifth year in a row that redundancies rose, full-year official data released by the Ministry of Manpower yesterday showed.

Last year's number climbed 20 per cent from 12,930 in 2014 and was the highest since the 2009 global financial crisis, which saw 23,430 workers laid off.

Job vacancies also fell to 53,700 as of December after accounting for seasonal variation, down 18 per cent from 65,500 a year earlier.

The trend could continue.

"Amid the cyclical weakness and as the economy restructures, some consolidation and exit of businesses is expected," the ministry said.

Just over half, or 50.5 per cent, of the Singaporeans and permanent residents made redundant from July to September last year were back in employment by the end of the year.

This figure measures the re- entry rates within six months of redundancy based on Central Provident Fund records, and was down from 54.9 per cent three months earlier and 59.2 per cent at the end of 2014.

Still, the unemployment rate last year remained unchanged for Singaporeans at 2.9 per cent. The figure including permanent residents was 2.8 per cent, up from 2.7 per cent in 2014.

There were 2,268,900 residents in jobs in Singapore at the end of last year, just 700 more than there were a year earlier - when local employment had grown by 96,000.

With the growth in employment of foreigners also slowing, the total number of workers here stood at 3,656,200 at the end of last year.

For the year ahead, the ministry expects redundancies to continue to rise in sectors facing weak external demand and that are undergoing restructuring, while domestic-oriented service sectors are likely to continue to need workers.

The ministry added that it is "closely monitoring the current economic and labour market situation, and is strengthening employment support to help displaced locals re-enter employment".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2016, with the headline 'More lost their jobs last year but unemployment still low'. Print Edition | Subscribe