S'pore's total employment grew in Q1 for first time since start of Covid-19, retrenchments fell for 2nd straight quarter

SINGAPORE – The labour market has continued its recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the first three months of the year, latest manpower estimates showed on Wednesday (April 28).

Overall, resident employment growth was broad-based, while non-resident employment contracted across all sectors, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Total employment grew for the first time since the start of the pandemic in the first quarter of the year, led mostly by the services sectors’ hiring of residents.

These services sectors include information and communications, financial services and professional services, which continued to see employment expansion.

Employment in construction also saw a slight rebound, with the contraction in non-resident employment moderating significantly.

Employment in manufacturing continued to contract, but at a slower pace.

Unemployment here, which peaked at 3.5 per cent in September last year, continued to ease but remains above pre-pandemic levels.

The estimated overall unemployment rate in March is 2.9 per cent, said MOM.

The unemployment rate among residents also fell slightly, from 4.3 per cent in January to 4 per cent in March. This puts the number of unemployed residents in March at 95,500.

Among Singaporeans, the rate also declined from 4.5 per cent in January to 4.2 per cent in March.

MOM estimates also showed that the number of retrenchments continued to decline for the second consecutive quarter to pre-pandemic levels, after peaking in the third quarter of 2020.

Similarly, the incidence of retrenchments also fell, from 2.8 workers retrenched per 1,000 employees in the fourth quarter of last year to 1.1 workers retrenched per 1,000 employees in the first quarter of this year.

However, MOM cautioned that there may still be pockets of job displacements due to ongoing restructuring and reorganisation of businesses.

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While the preliminary estimates show encouraging signs of broad-based recovery, the labour market is still not fully back to pre-Covid-19 conditions, the ministry said.

“As a result of ongoing travel and entry restrictions, hiring remains subdued in sectors such as construction and hospitality. Unemployment rates may have eased but remain higher than before the pandemic,” it said.

The labour market will continue to face challenges from travel restrictions that affect the inflow of work pass holders, as well as from the changing profiles of jobs available as a result of business transformations.

Business sentiment appears relatively positive, MOM said, citing ongoing polls of companies. In March, 73 per cent of the companies polled indicated they had plans to hire, up from 65 per cent in December last year.

The proportion of companies that intend to cut staff size fell to 2.2 percent, from 2.8 per cent in December, while those that said they would reduce salaries rose to 3.4 per cent, from 2.8 per cent three months before.

MOM urged employers to make use of schemes that support reskilling and expand local hiring, while considering a wider pool of candidates to fill positions.

Jobseekers should also keep an open mind to new opportunities to reskill, the ministry added.

Those who need help with their job search can approach Workforce Singapore and the National Trades Union Congress’ Employment and Employability Institute, or the 24 SGUnited Jobs and Skills Centres across the island.

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