Layoffs in Singapore rise to 1,120 in Q3, driven by tech firms

Total job vacancies declined for the second straight quarter to 108,200 in September. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE – Retrenchments in Singapore increased in the third quarter of this year, up from the previous quarter’s record low, while the overall tightness in the labour market eased with job vacancies dropping for a second straight quarter.

“The labour market continued to improve, albeit with early indications of easing momentum,” Manpower Minister Tan See Leng wrote in a Facebook post after the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) released its finalised third-quarter labour market report on Thursday.

“Although labour demand remains robust, uncertain geopolitical conditions and higher global inflation will weigh on the labour market going forward,” he added.

There were 1,120 retrenchments in Singapore from July to September.

This is up from the record low of 830 in the previous quarter, but “a step down from pre-pandemic levels”, MOM said.

Driving the increase were technology firms, which saw layoffs increase from 110 to 460, it added.

“Vacancies in the sector remained high, suggesting that these retrenchments were a consequence of restructuring efforts within the sector,” said the ministry.

This follows a series of high-profile mass cuts from regional and global tech firms, including Sea’s Shopee, Facebook parent Meta, Stripe and Twitter, that hit Singapore employees in the second half of 2022.

Retrenchments in other sectors stayed low and were mainly due to restructuring or reorganisation, MOM noted.

It also said the percentage of retrenched residents – that is, Singaporeans and permanent residents – who found employment within six months continued to decline, dropping to 64.8 per cent, down from a high of 71.5 per cent in the first quarter, and comparable to pre-Covid-19 rates.

Those placed on a shorter work-week or temporarily laid off rose to 920, from 600 in the previous quarter, but remained low compared with pre-pandemic levels as well.

Meanwhile, the overall labour market tightness eased as the total number of job vacancies declined for the second consecutive quarter to 108,200 in September, from 126,100 in June.

In tandem, the ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons declined to just over 220 for every 100, from over 250 in June.

Nonetheless, vacancies remained significantly higher than 2019’s 52,900 average, before the pandemic.

The bulk of job vacancies was in manufacturing and construction, as well as the information and communications, financial services, professional services, and health and social services sectors, said MOM.

Manufacturing and construction accounted for over two in 10 vacancies, while the other four sectors made up over three in 10 vacancies.

There were 9,500 vacancies in the information and communications sector, translating to a vacancy rate of 8.5 per cent, over 3 percentage points above the overall vacancy rate of 5.2 per cent.

Only the accommodation sector saw a higher vacancy rate, of over 10 per cent, as a deep crunch in the sector persists.

Overall, most of the vacancies in September, or 60,600, were for professionals, managers, executives and technicians.

Employment growth in the third quarter, at 75,900, edged up from the 66,500 increase seen in the previous quarter, with total employment now 1.7 per cent above the 2019 level.

Much of the increase – 71,100 – came from non-resident employment which, at 3.9 per cent below its pre-pandemic level, is seeing a continuing rebound.

Resident employment, which is already 4.4 per cent above the 2019 level, grew at a more moderate pace of 4,800.

MOM said non-resident employment growth was concentrated in manufacturing and construction, sectors with a higher share of non-resident workers.

Outward-oriented sectors, such as financial services, professional services, information and communications, and accommodation, drove resident employment growth.

The resident unemployment rate clocked 2.8 per cent in October 2022, remaining within the pre-Covid-19 range.

The resident long-term unemployment rate was unchanged over the quarter in September 2022, at 0.7 per cent, after returning to pre-Covid-19 levels in June 2022.

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