SINGAPORE - The labour market continued to improve in the third quarter of this year, but several indicators show hiring may be slowing amid global uncertainties.
Official figures released on Thursday (Dec 13) by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) confirmed the trends in the preliminary estimates released in October. From July to September, more people were employed here and fewer people lost their jobs, compared with the preceding three months.
But overall unemployment crept up slightly, and the proportion of residents who found work last quarter within six months of being retrenched slipped to 62 per cent, down from 64 per cent in the second quarter. Lower re-entry rates were seen across all age groups.
While there were more than enough vacancies for job-seekers in the third quarter, the surplus dipped. The seasonally adjusted ratio of vacancies to unemployed people was 1.05 in September, down from 1.1 in June.
This was due to an increase in the overall number of unemployed people, and a slight decline in the total vacancies for the whole economy, said the MOM in its report.
On the bright side, from July to September, the number of people employed here grew by the fastest rate in four years. Total employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, rose by 16,700, compared with 6,500 in the previous quarter.
Higher-skilled sectors saw good employment growth, said the ministry. These included professional services, information and communications, financial and insurance services, and community, social and personal services.
In all, there were 3,446,300 people working in Singapore in September, excluding foreign domestic workers.
Fewer people lost their jobs in the third quarter, with retrenchments falling to 2,860, down from 3,030 in the previous quarter and 3,400 in the third quarter of last year.
Unemployment remained low. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Singaporeans was the same in September as in June, at 3 per cent, while the rate for residents also held steady at 2.9 per cent.
However, overall unemployment rose to 2.1 per cent in September, up from 2 per cent.
The long-term unemployment rate for residents - that is, Singaporeans and permanent residents - went down to 0.6 per cent in September, from 0.7 per cent in June, after taking seasonal variations into account. This rate measures the share of residents in the labour force who are jobless and looking for work for at least 25 weeks.
MOM cautioned that hiring momentum may moderate against a backdrop of external trade tensions and slowing growth in Singapore's key final demand markets.
It highlighted the information and communications, financial and insurance services, healthcare, professional services, wholesale trade and built environment sectors as those where job opportunities remain good.
Recruitment firm Kelly Services Singapore managing director Foo See Yang said companies are redesigning jobs to suit new systems.
"Many new or refurbished roles require digital-related skills that, up till this point, did not exist. These include skills in data analysis, cyber-security, and software, web, and multi-media development," he said.