Unemployment for Singaporeans crept up in Q2 as employers grow cautious in hiring

The unemployment rate for Singaporeans rose for the third consecutive quarter to 3.3 per cent in June.
The unemployment rate for Singaporeans rose for the third consecutive quarter to 3.3 per cent in June.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Unemployment for Singaporeans continued to rise as the pace of employment growth slowed in the second quarter of this year, amid trade tensions and global uncertainties.

However, retrenchments dipped, according to preliminary data released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Friday (July 26).

The unemployment rate for Singaporeans rose for the third consecutive quarter to 3.3 per cent in June, up from 3.2 per cent in March. This is after seasonal variations were taken into account.

The rate for Singaporeans and permanent residents combined rose to 3.1 per cent, up from 3 per cent, while the overall unemployment rate was unchanged, at 2.2 per cent.

Layoffs fell to 2,300 in the three months from April to June, down from 3,230 in the preceding quarter and 3,030 in the second quarter of last year.

The ministry said the figures "suggest that most employers are not laying off existing workers, but exercising greater caution in hiring even when they have unfilled vacancies".

Thus the data showed employment growth slowed in the second quarter. Total employment, excluding maids, grew by 4,000, lower than the growth of 10,700 in the preceding quarter and 6,500 in the second quarter of last year.   

The gains last quarter were mainly in sectors such as information and communications, professional services, financial services and community, social and personal services. But these were offset by the decline in employment in retail trade.

Construction continued to add workers as a result of more public sector construction activities. Employment growth turned positive for the sector just this year, after 11 consecutive quarters of contraction.

But manufacturing continued to shed workers for the third consecutive quarter as output declined.

MANPOWER MINISTRY WATCHING LABOUR MARKET CLOSELY

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said in a Facebook post on Friday that her ministry is "monitoring the labour market closely".

She noted that while employment growth slowed, it did not stall.

 
 
 

"When hiring becomes more subdued, being flexible helps job seekers greatly. This is especially so if their previous roles or industries have restructured," she said.

As a result, job seekers may find opportunities in sectors and occupations they have no prior experience or interest in, she added.

"Whenever they are ready to make a move, there are programmes to support them, such as the more than 100 professional conversion programmes in over 30 sectors," she said.

The ministry and Workforce Singapore (WSG), together with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and employers, "stand ready to step up support for Singaporeans under the Adapt and Grow initiative", MOM added in a media statement.

It highlighted the work of the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation, which is actively reaching out to retrenched workers to offer job matching services.

Job seekers who need assistance can visit WSG's Careers Connect and the NTUC-Employment and Employability Institute's career centres.

NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay urged companies to take reference from the tripartite guidelines on managing excess manpower and "cut costs to save jobs instead of cutting jobs to save costs".

He said in a Facebook post on Friday that while there was no sudden spike in retrenchment numbers last quarter, retrenchments are seen as an indicator which lags behind economic performance.

Continued fluctuations from quarter to quarter are expected, especially with the continued trade tensions between United States and China, he said.

"While there may be challenging times ahead, I encourage both workers and employers to take personal responsibility and remain agile and adaptable so as to effectively respond to economic fluctuations, transformations in the future of work as well as an evolving workforce profile, and (to) seize opportunities in the future," he said.