Singapore's unemployment rate fell in November for the first time in 2020: MOM

The unemployment rate among citizens improved from 4.9 per cent in October to 4.7 per cent in November.
The unemployment rate among citizens improved from 4.9 per cent in October to 4.7 per cent in November.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The unemployment rate for Singaporeans and permanent residents dipped slightly in November compared with the previous month, the first drop in 2020, figures from the Ministry from Manpower showed on Friday (Jan 8).

The monthly resident unemployment rate for November was 4.6 per cent, an improvement from 4.8 per cent in October.

The rate among citizens also improved slightly, from 4.9 per cent in October to 4.7 per cent in November.

Overall, the unemployment rate was 3.3 per cent in November, compared with 3.6 per cent the previous month.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, who was visiting the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) in Jurong East on Friday, said that while the figures are a relief, it is still too early to say whether the job market is out of the woods.

She cautioned against looking at the job market situation through a single statistic.

"Those who follow the Jobs Situation Reports will know that I have always cautioned about the need to look at labour market statistics holistically. Unemployment rate is only one dimension. We should also look at employment levels to know if our workforce participation has expanded or contracted," she said.

Mrs Teo added that the release of the fourth-quarter employment, unemployment and redundancy figures for 2020 later this month will bring a fuller picture of the labour market situation.

She added that the Government will remain cautious, as recovery of the labour market is expected to be bumpy, unlike previous crises, and the Covid-19 pandemic continues to rage around the world with a resurgence in cases in some countries as well as the emergence of a new coronavirus strain.

The Covid-19 pandemic is also expected to have long-lasting effects on businesses, putting pressure on workers to continue to upgrade their skills, she said.

Mrs Teo also thanked tripartite partners National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation for their efforts in maintaining a strong proportion of locals in the workforce.

NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng, who was also at e2i, said the 10,000 employers who are part of the NTUC Job Security Council played an important role in job matching efforts.

"Up to now, we have secured 28,000 successful job matches across all industries," said Mr Ng.

"While this is just a number, importantly, behind all these are the men and women in NTUC, in e2i, doing all the different work in job support, in job matching, and... job training as well," he added.

"All the ecosystem that we have built up in these nine months are due to the very dedicated, hard work of union leaders on the ground, staff at NTUC, our government colleagues and employers that are willing to step forward."

He added that NTUC will continue to support workers to face labour challenges in 2021.

Commenting on the latest figures, OCBC Bank's chief economist, Ms Selena Ling, said the labour market is beginning to stabilise.

"This could potentially signify that the unemployment rate peaked in October and should gradually start to ease in the coming months," said Ms Ling, who is head of treasury research and strategy at OCBC Bank.

"Hence, some tentative light is emerging at the end of the Covid tunnel for the domestic labour market, especially with the roll-out of the Covid vaccine which could aid in the gradual rebuilding of consumer confidence and business hiring intentions," she added.

But the unemployment rate will likely remain elevated in 2021 with digital disruption and the re-opening of borders expected to take some time, said Ms Ling.