SINGAPORE - Singapore's labour market continued to show signs of recovery, as resident employment grew more quickly and retrenchments fell in the third quarter of this year. Job vacancies also continued to rise for the fifth straight quarter.
Despite the improvements, unemployment rates remained above pre-pandemic levels and more residents are taking over six months to find new jobs, according to the labour market report released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Wednesday (Dec 15).
In the three months to September, resident employment grew by 19,100, led by outward-oriented sectors such as information and communications, professional services and financial services.
Some domestically oriented sectors like administrative and support services and health and social services also boosted growth.
Despite the increase, total employment, excluding migrant domestic workers, fell by 2,400, due to ongoing border restrictions that led to non-resident employment falling across most industries, MOM said.
Still, this was a much smaller decline than the fall of 16,300 in the second quarter.
Permanent Secretary Aubeck Kam said: "Over the course of this year, measures have been taken to increase the inflow of foreign workers... This has benefited in particular the construction, marine and process sectors.
"We expect that businesses will be able to bring in more foreign workers in the coming months to replace those who have left."
As a whole, the overall unemployment rate stood at 2.6 per cent in September, while the unemployment rate for residents stood at 3.5 per cent.
An MOM spokesman said although this remains above pre-Covid-19 levels, "there is increased movement of persons between jobs as the economy recovers and there's more confidence".
She added that more people who were previously outside the labour force are coming back to look for work.
But there are also continued job search difficulties among displaced workers, such as "those who were laid off from sectors that were adversely impacted by the pandemic like retail trade and F&B (food and beverage)".
Fewer people were also laid off, with the number of retrenchments falling to 1,900 in the third quarter, from 2,340 in the quarter before.
The number of staff placed on short work weeks or temporary layoffs also declined to 4,060, from 5,580 in the second quarter. Although this still remained above pre-pandemic levels, sectors such as air transport and supporting services have started to ramp up capacity in anticipation of some resumption in air travel, MOM said.
Meanwhile, the number of job vacancies, seasonally adjusted, rose to 98,700 in September, up from 92,100 in June.
In September, there were 209 job openings for every 100 unemployed people, up from 163 in June.
MOM said the sectors that saw substantial decreases in Work Permit holders include manufacturing, construction, F&B services, and administrative and support services.
"The number of job vacancies, and the ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons, is expected to remain high until border restrictions are lifted," MOM said.
Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said in a Facebook post: “As Singapore moves into the transition phase and (Covid-19) restrictions start easing, I am optimistic that the labour market will continue to improve.
“That being said... we are not completely out of the woods just yet. Recovery remains uneven, likely reflecting the impact of heightened alert restrictions earlier this year.”
Mr Patrick Tay, National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general, added on Facebook: “There continues to be areas to be watchful about such as the structural challenge of skills and jobs mismatches which will continue to be one of the main causes of unemployment in Singapore, in the coming years.
“With the long-term unemployment rate creeping up, we need to press on with our efforts in training and skills acquisition and upgrading.”
He noted that a key imperative is supporting mature workers and professionals, managers and executives.