Singapore’s Q3 jobless rate remains low, but employment growth slows

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SINGAPORE: Singapore’s unemployment rate in the third quarter stood at 1.9 per cent, down from 2.0 per cent in the previous quarter, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

The Q3 jobless rate was also lower than the 2.0 per cent in the third quarter of last year, according to preliminary findings from the “Employment Situation, Third Quarter 2012” report released on Wednesday by the MOM.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for residents and Singapore citizens were 2.8 per cent and 3.0 per cent respectively in the July-September quarter, unchanged from the second quarter, the report said.

It added that unemployment remained low, reflecting strong manpower demand amid tightening controls on foreign manpower.

Mr Richard Farmer, director at the human resource firm Randstad said: “There is a skills shortage, the war on talent will continue. The focus is to find people who can take the company forward and they are looking for senior leadership and middle management to join their companies, who can innovate, motivate people to take the business forward, because they are really focused on profitability.”

However, employment creation moderated in the third quarter after rising in the previous quarter.

Preliminary estimates showed that total employment grew by 24,900, down from the increase of 31,900 in the same period last year, and 31,700 in the second quarter of 2012.

The growth in employment slowed in services (from 21,200 in the third quarter of 2011 to 11,300 in the third quarter of 2012) and manufacturing (from 3,900 to 3,700).

Boosted by public infrastructure projects, construction continued to register strong employment increase of 9,800 in the third quarter of 2012, up from 6,700 in the same quarter in 2011.

Layoffs increased after declining in the preceding two quarters. An estimated 3,300 workers were made redundant in the third quarter of 2012, mainly driven by higher layoffs in electronics manufacturing and retail.

This was one of the few higher quarterly redundancy figures reported in post-recessionary periods. About 2,210 workers were made redundant in the second quarter of this year and 2,600 in the first quarter.

However, the third quarter figure was substantially lower than the highs of 6,000 to 12,800 per quarter registered during the last recession.

Dr Tan Khay Boon, economist at SIM Global Education said: “I do believe that for the next few months the manufacturing sector will continue to be weak. But for the next few months, the holiday season and the year-end festive season will translate into greater demand for workers in the service sector, because of the big drop in the quotas in the service sector there is a real need for the companies to boost productivity.”

“But because labour productivity cannot be boosted in a short period, it might be possible that the companies would have to rely on employing more women and elderly workers to meet their demands in the production target,” he added.

Acting Manpower Minister, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, said it is encouraging that Singapore’s resident unemployment rate has remained low.

In a Facebook post, he added that employment growth in the third quarter is still high at 24,900.

He stressed that with Singapore’s economy expected to grow between 1.5 and 2.5 per cent, the government has to continue to moderate employment growth to a more sustainable pace. This means that companies will press on with restructuring.

Mr Tan explained that redundancies and labour turnover are part and parcel of restructuring and freeing up manpower for more competitive businesses.

In this light, Mr Tan felt the redundancy level at 3,300 in the third quarter was probably not excessive.

But he added that the Manpower Ministry will continue to monitor the situation, facilitate re-entry to jobs, and keep long-term unemployment low.

MOM will also continue to keep a close watch of the layoffs and re-entry rates, especially among older professionals, managers and executives (PMEs).

The Workforce Development Agency (WDA), together with e2i, the five Community Development Councils’ Career Centres, and Caliberlink are also working to help employees with skills upgrading or job matching.

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