Unemployment rises in second quarter, with fewer vacancies than job seekers

The labour market reflected slower economic conditions with unemployment rising and vacancies falling in the second quarter of the year.
The labour market reflected slower economic conditions with unemployment rising and vacancies falling in the second quarter of the year.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - The labour market reflected slower economic conditions with unemployment rising and vacancies falling in the second quarter of the year.

The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate rose to 2.1 per cent in June this year, up from 1.9 per cent in March, according to official data from the Manpower Ministry (MOM) on Thursday (Sept 15), after preliminary estimates were released in July.

For citizens, unemployment was up to 3.1 per cent in June, from 2.6 per cent in March, while for residents the rate rose from 2.7 per cent to 3 per cent over the same period.

More people found themselves out of work for at least 25 weeks. The long-term unemployment rate of 0.8 per cent for Singaporeans and permanent residents was the highest since 2010, with those aged 40 and over and among degree holders especially affected.

Job vacancies, which have been falling since last year, hit 49,400 in June after being adjusted for variations due to peak seasons. However, it was the first time in four years that there were fewer vacancies than job seekers.

Redundancies rose, with 4,800 workers let go in the second quarter, up by nearly 50 per cent from the same quarter last year. This means 9,510 workers have been retrenched or had their contracts aborted in the first half of the year - the highest figure since 2009.

Fewer than half, or 45 per cent, of residents who lost their jobs in the first quarter of the year were back in work by June.

Overall, total employment growth slowed to 4,200 over the second quarter, less than half of the growth a year ago. This brought the total number of workers in Singapore to 3,673,400 as of June. The manufacturing sector continued to shed workers, ending the quarter with 3,400 fewer workers than it started with.

Local employment fell slightly by 200 in the first half of the year, according to a separate MOM statement, but this was less than the drop of 8,900 in the first half of last year.

The ministry said the decline is due to both structural and cyclical factors.

"Structurally, growth of the local working-age population is slowing, due to smaller cohorts of younger locals entering the workforce, and more 'baby boomers' retiring... local employment growth since 2015 has been further weighed down by cyclical weakness in the economy due to the subdued global economic conditions," said the ministry.

Foreign employment growth continued to be slower than in the earlier part of the decade. In the first six months of this year, a net 11,800 foreign employees were added, excluding foreign domestic workers. The bulk of these, or 9,300, were work permit holders, many of whom found work in the food and beverage and administrative and support services industries.

One bright spot was that labour productivity rose by 0.8 per cent in the first half of this year, compared with the same period last year.

With weaker global economic conditions, MOM said it expects demand for labour to remain modest for the rest of the year and for redundancies to rise "in sectors facing weak external demand and that are undergoing restructuring".

On the other hand, there could still be a shortage of workers in domestically-oriented sectors such as community, social and personal services, and accommodation and food services.