Singapore, 16 December 2021 – Singapore’s labour market performed better in 3Q 2021 compared to the previous quarter. Resident employment grew faster, although total employment declined due to a continued fall in non-resident employment. There was an easing in unemployment rates and reductions, with fewer employees placed on short work-week or temporary layoffs. At the same time, the re-entry rate among retrenched residents recovered, and job vacancies rose for the fifth consecutive quarter. As Singapore moves into the ‘transition phase’ of reopening and travel and dining restrictions ease gradually, the labour market is expected to continue its recovery in the coming months.
Nevertheless, the recovery remains uneven across sectors. Resident employment growth in consumer and tourism-related sectors trailed behind outward-oriented sectors. Notwithstanding strong resident employment growth, the resident long-term unemployment rate remains above the pre-COVID level and points to the need to redouble efforts to reskill our workforce for future jobs and skills.
Resident employment grew by 19,100, leading to a significantly smaller decline in total employment compared to 2Q 2021
Total employment declined by a significantly smaller extent in 3Q 2021 (-2,400 excluding Migrant Domestic Workers (MDW)) than the previous quarter (-16,300). This was because resident employment increased strongly (19,100), while non-resident employment fell (-21,500) at a pace similar to 2Q 2021.
Resident employment increases were led by outward-oriented sectors of Information & Communications, Professional Services and Financial Services, and domestically-oriented sectors of Administrative & Support Services and Health & Social Services. However, resident employment growth in consumer and tourism-related sectors such as Food & Beverage Services, Arts, Entertainment & Recreation, Accommodation, and Retail Trade continued to trail behind the other sectors. Ongoing border restrictions contributed to the continued contraction of non-resident employment across most industries.
Unemployment rates continued to improve but remain above pre-COVID levels
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rates declined further from August to September 2021 (Overall: 2.6per cent (-0.1 per cent-point)); Resident: 3.5 per cent (-0.1per cent-point)); Citizen: 3.7per cent (-0.1per cent-point)). However, the resident long-term unemployment rate increased to 1.2per cent in September 2021 (from 0.9per cent in June, seasonally adjusted). The latest October 2021 data shows continued improvement in unemployment rates.
The number and incidence of retrenchments declined in 3Q 2021 (from 2,340 or 1.3 retrenched per 1,000 employees to 1,900 or 1.1). The six-month re-entry rate among retrenched residents improved in 3Q 2021 (from 64per cent to 66 per cent), back to the rate seen in 1Q 2021.
Some fewer employees were placed on short work-week or temporary layoff in 3Q 2021 (4,060) compared to 2Q (5,580), though the number remained above pre-pandemic levels. In particular, there was a notable decrease in Air Transport & Supporting Services, as firms started to ramp up capacity in anticipation of some resumption in air travel.
Job vacancies rose amidst continued border restrictions on foreign labour inflow
The number of job vacancies (seasonally adjusted) increased further from 92,100 in June 2021 to 98,700 in September 2021, though the increase has slowed. With the decline in unemployed persons, job vacancies for unemployed persons trended higher. There were 209 job vacancies for every 100 unemployed persons in September 2021, up from 163 in June 2021 (seasonally adjusted).
The increase in job vacancies should be seen in the context of border restrictions on the inflow of foreign labour, which has led to total employment (excluding MDW) declining by 173,100 since December 2019, notwithstanding resident solid employment growth. In particular, sectors that have seen substantial decreases in Work Permit holders, namely Manufacturing, Construction, Food and Beverage Services, and Administrative and Support Services, accounted for 38 per cent of all job vacancies. The number of job vacancies, and the ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons, is expected to remain high until border restrictions are lifted.
At the same time, there was sustained demand in growth sectors such as Professional Services, Financial Services, Information and Communications, and Health and Social Services, where resident employment has also increased in tandem. In-demand occupations include Software, Web & Multimedia Developers, Systems Analysts, Commercial & Marketing sales Executives, Accountants, and Nurses.
Alongside the projected economic growth, the labour market is expected to continue on its recovery trajectory for the remainder of 2021 and into 2022 but unevenly across sectors. The labour market will become tighter as border restrictions constrain workforce supply from overseas. The Government and our tripartite partners will continue to support employers to accelerate the pace of transformation, become more manpower-lean and strengthen their local workforce.
– Construction+ Online
Source: Ministry of Manpower