Singapore's unemployment rates back to pre-pandemic levels as they continue to fall: MOM

A total of 71,700 residents, of whom 65,000 are citizens, were unemployed in February. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Unemployment rates continued to fall in February, with the overall rate at 2.1 per cent, down from 2.3 per cent in January, according to figures from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Thursday (April 7).

The resident unemployment rate fell to 3 per cent from the 3.1 per cent in January, while the citizen unemployment rate dipped to 3.2 per cent from 3.3 per cent previously.

The unemployment rates are now back to around pre-Covid-19 levels, said MOM in its monthly unemployment situation statistics.

A total of 71,700 residents, of whom 65,000 are citizens, were unemployed in February.

MOM expects the unemployment rates to fluctuate around this level depending on the prevailing economic situation going forward.

"The high number of vacancies could bring rates down further, but at the same time, the downside risks in the global economy have increased - protracted supply chain disruptions and higher energy prices could affect business sentiments and profitability," MOM added.

Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng noted in a Facebook post on Thursday that resident unemployment rate is on par with the quarterly average in 2018 and 2019.

"Employers are looking beyond conventional 'plug-and-play' options for hiring, and employees have been more open to new opportunities and learning new skills," said Dr Tan in highlighting the resilience of employers and employees over the past two years.

The plug-and-play approach is hiring an employee previously trained by a competitor, rather than training the workers to fit the hiring company's needs.

"With the recent easing of border restrictions and safe management measures, I am optimistic that our labour market situation will hold steady in the coming months," Dr Tan added.

Companies and employers are starting to hire to prepare for a sharp recovery, said Dr David Leong, managing director of human resource firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting.

"This is evidenced by the amount of hiring orders we have been receiving from the marine, process and hospitality industries... The improvement of the economy largely stems from confidence - that we have passed the difficult part of the Covid-19 curve and now are building momentum into an upswing," he said.

Dr Leong added that while the partial lifting of Covid measures has spurred confidence, Singapore is "not totally out of the woods with many other tensions still surrounding businesses like the Ukraine war."

The full-blown economic fallout has yet to develop, but the world economy will likely see strong inflation and price increases, he said.

With energy prices spiking, businesses have to contend with higher operating costs as well.

"We are cautiously optimistic and look forward to when our core resident employment rate can go up higher with MOM's adjusted formula to allow foreigners to work in Singapore," Dr Leong added.

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