Dip in lay­offs, unem­ploy­ment in first half of the year

Pool of work­ers grew by 4,000 from Jan­uary to June, first rise of its kind in three years

Today - - SINGAPORE - KEN­NETH CHENG ken­nethcjw@me­di­a­corp.com.sg

SIN­GA­PORE — For the first time in three years, the num­ber of Sin­ga­pore­ans and per­ma­nent res­i­dents (PRs) in em­ploy­ment rose in the first half of this year, af­ter con­trac­tions in the first six months of the last two years.

The growth in lo­cal em­ploy­ment was mainly in the com­mu­nity, so­cial and per­sonal ser­vices, fi­nan­cial and in­surance ser­vices, and in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion sec­tors, the Man­power Min­istry (MOM) said.

Its labour mar­ket re­port for the sec­ond quar­ter of the year, re­leased yes­ter­day, showed fewer lay­offs and a dip in res­i­dent unem­ploy­ment.

But the num­ber of work­ers placed on short work­ing-week or tem­po­rary lay­off ar­range­ments rose to its high­est quar­terly level in four years.

In the first six months of this year, lo­cal em­ploy­ment ex­panded by 4,000, fol­low­ing de­clines in the first half of last year (by 200) and 2015 (by 8,900). Econ­o­mists, how­ever, noted the fig­ure was sig­nif­i­cantly lower than lev­els seen the ear­lier part of this decade.

In the first half of 2013, for in­stance, lo­cal em­ploy­ment grew by 34,100.

Be­tween April and June this year, the num­ber of work­ers laid off con­tin­ued to de­cline, with 3,640 work­ers re­trenched — the low­est in seven quar­ters.

In the first half of the year, 7,640 work­ers were re­trenched, about 20 per cent fewer than in the same pe­riod last year.

Sea­son­ally ad­justed, the unem­ploy­ment rate for cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents slid from 3.2 per cent to 3.1 per cent be­tween March and June. Over the same pe­riod, the cit­i­zen unem­ploy­ment

In the first half of the year, 7,640 work­ers were re­trenched, about 20 per cent fewer than in the same pe­riod last year.

rate also fell from 3.5 per cent to 3.3 per cent.

The MOM noted, how­ever, that the rates — which were on an up­ward tra­jec­tory in pre­vi­ous quar­ters — are still higher than those recorded a year ago.

The sea­son­ally ad­justed res­i­dent long-term unem­ploy­ment rate, which cov­ers cit­i­zens and PRs job­less for 25 weeks or longer, de­creased from 0.8 per cent to 0.7 per cent.

The to­tal num­ber of work­ers em­ployed, ex­clud­ing for­eign do­mes­tic work­ers, shrank by 7,900 in the sec­ond quar­ter.

This was the sec­ond straight quar­ter of con­trac­tions in to­tal em­ploy­ment, ow­ing to “sus­tained de­clines in work-per­mit hold­ers in con­struc­tion and man­u­fac­tur­ing”, the MOM said.

Mean­while, the num­ber of sea­son­ally ad­justed job open­ings rose from 46,800 to 49,000 be­tween March and June. Due to this and a smaller pool of job­seek­ers, the job va­can­cies to job­seek­ers ra­tio also reached its high­est since last Septem­ber, with 85 open­ings for every 100 job­seek­ers in June.

CIMB Pri­vate Bank­ing econ­o­mist Song Seng Wun said the rise in lo­cal em­ploy­ment pointed to the first ten­ta­tive signs of sta­bil­ity in the lo­cal labour mar­ket, buoyed by im­prove­ments in ex­ter­nal de­mand and in­creased hir­ing in sec­tors like health­care and in­fo­comm tech­nol­ogy (ICT).

Lo­cal em­ploy­ment is typ­i­cally bet­ter in the sec­ond half of the year, when hir­ing gath­ers pace and fac­to­ries gear up to meet fes­tive de­mand, said Mr Song. He ex­pects a stronger show­ing in the sec­ond half if the econ­omy fares well for the year as a whole.

OCBC Bank’s trea­sury re­search and strat­egy head Selena Ling said lo­cal em­ploy­ment was a “ben­e­fi­ciary” of a shrink­ing for­eign work­force.

Ex­clud­ing for­eign do­mes­tic work­ers, for­eign em­ploy­ment shrank by 21,400 in the first six months of this year, af­ter de­clin­ing by 14,300 in the sec­ond half of last year.

The num­ber of Em­ploy­ment Pass hold­ers dipped by 2,400 for the first time since the first half of 2013, due mainly to falls in the pro­fes­sional ser­vices and in­fo­comm sec­tors.

De­spite fewer lay­offs in the sec­ond quar­ter of 2017, 1,240 work­ers were placed on short work-week or tem­po­rary lay­off ar­range­ments — the high­est since the sec­ond quar­ter of 2013 (1,670).

Mr Song said this re­flected con­tin­ued un­even­ness in the mar­ket, as some busi­nesses try to tide over the slump with­out tak­ing the “more dras­tic” step of re­trench­ments.

Credit Suisse econ­o­mist Michael Wan said the pick-up in em­ploy­ment growth should con­tinue into the first half of next year, with the ICT sec­tor con­tin­u­ing to per­form well.

Hir­ing could also gather speed in sec­tors like elec­tron­ics.

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