Unemployment for S'poreans, PRs rises in Q3

The sluggish global economy is having an impact on jobs, with unemployment for Singaporeans and permanent residents creeping up for the second quarter in a row.
The sluggish global economy is having an impact on jobs, with unemployment for Singaporeans and permanent residents creeping up for the second quarter in a row.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Weak economic growth because of the sluggish global economy is having an impact on jobs, with unemployment for Singaporeans and permanent residents creeping up for the second quarter in a row.

As of last month, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for citizens and permanent residents was 3 per cent, up from 2.5 per cent in March.

Though still low by international standards, this is the highest since 2010.

The rate for citizens was 3.1 per cent, up from 2.6 per cent in March, according to preliminary figures released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) yesterday.

Economists said the economic slowdown was cyclical and thus had more of an impact on the local population.

"Residents tend to be in higher-skilled jobs which are more susceptible to such changes than low-skilled jobs held mostly by foreign workers," said DBS economist Irvin Seah.

The overall unemployment rate, which includes foreigners working here, remained unchanged at 2 per cent after taking seasonal changes into account.

Citi economist Kit Wei Zheng said sectors that are more dependent on foreign workers are still facing shortages, while foreigners who are retrenched would automatically leave the workforce and not count towards unemployment statistics.

At the same time that unemployment grew, however, more jobs were filled in the three months from July to September. The number of people employed rose by 16,400 because of growth in the service and construction sectors.

This improved on the rise of 9,700 in the previous quarter and the fall of 6,100 in the preceding one, though it paled beside the employment growth of 33,400 from July to September last year.

"We are still seeing the situation where European-headquartered companies may have headcount restrictions in place due to market challenges," said Ms Femke Hellemons, country manager of recruitment firm Adecco Singapore.

The total number of people employed in jobs here was 3,644,000 as of last month.

Employment can rise in tandem with the jobless rate as better employment prospects convince people to re-enter the workforce and look for jobs, but if they do not find one immediately, they come under the unemployment count, said SIM University senior lecturer Walter Theseira.

Hiring picked up in the service sector, with 17,000 more people being employed in the past three months, compared with just 6,500 in the previous quarter.

The construction sector added 3,800 workers. But employment in the manufacturing sector continued a year-long slide, ending the quarter with 4,300 fewer workers than it started.

Across the economy, firms laid off fewer people for the third consecutive quarter, with 2,900 people losing their jobs from July to September, down from 3,250 in the previous three months.

"MOM and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency stand ready to help displaced local workers to re-skill and upgrade so that they are able to take on new jobs," said MOM in a statement.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2015, with the headline 'Unemployment for S'poreans, PRs rises in Q3'. Print Edition | Subscribe