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Total employment hits 99.5% of pre-pandemic levels, but labour market recovery still 'uneven across sectors': MOM

SINGAPORE — With firms now filling more job positions, the total number of people employed here in the second quarter this year reached 99.5 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels, fuelled by a "significant increase" in non-resident employment.

In the second quarter of 2022, resident employment rose by 7,100, while non-resident employment increased by 59,400, the Ministry of Manpower said.
In the second quarter of 2022, resident employment rose by 7,100, while non-resident employment increased by 59,400, the Ministry of Manpower said.
  • Total employment hit 99.5 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in the second quarter of 2022
  • A significant increase in non-resident employment during this period contributed to this rise
  • The number of job vacancies also fell marginally to 126,100 in June, down from a record high of 128,100 in March
  • The figures were from a labour market report released by the Ministry of Manpower on Sept 14
  • Retrenchment numbers are also at a record low, falling from 1,320 in March to 990 in June

SINGAPORE — With firms now filling more job positions, the total number of people employed here in the second quarter this year reached 99.5 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels, fuelled by a "significant increase" in non-resident employment.

Total employment in the second quarter increased by 66,500, which was significantly higher than the 42,000 increase in the first quarter, a report released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Wednesday (Sept 14) showed. 

In the second quarter alone, resident employment rose by 7,100, while non-resident employment increased by 59,400.

Across the first half of this year, total employment – which excludes foreign domestic workers had expanded by 108,500.

The increase was mainly contributed by non-residents (95,400), particularly in the construction and manufacturing sectors, as "employers backfilled positions following the significant relaxation of border controls in April 2022", MOM said.

Non-resident employment "increased significantly as border restrictions were progressively lifted", recovering from 15 per cent below pre-pandemic levels in March, to 10 per cent below pre-pandemic levels in June, MOM added. 

The majority of the non-resident employment increases were attributed to the manufacturing and construction sector, while consumer-facing and tourism-related sectors have also begun to see a pick-up in non-resident employment.

"This should alleviate some of the manpower shortages in these sectors," MOM said.

At the same time, for the first half of the year, resident employment grew steadily by 13,100, with the largest increases in the financial and insurance services, information and communications, and professional services

As a result, resident employment surpassed the pre-pandemic level in December 2019 by 4.2 per cent, growing at a similar rate as the previous quarter.

JOB VACANCIES

As for job vacancies, the report said that the figure fell marginally to 126,100 in June, down from a record high of 128,100 in March.

However, this is still a higher figure compared to in December last year, where the number of job vacancies stood at 117,100.

This is the first time after seven quarters that the number of job vacancies has dipped, though the number of available jobs still remained at "historical high levels" in the midst of a tight labour market.

The ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons edged up from 2.42 in March to 2.53 in June, as unemployment rates declined further. 

The bulk of the job vacancies in June were from construction and manufacturing (22 per cent), as well as "growth sectors" (31 per cent) comprising information and communications, financial and insurance services, professional services, and health and social services.

Another 17 per cent of vacancies in June this year came from the consumer-facing and tourism-related sectors such as arts, entertainment and recreation, food-and-beverage services, accommodation, and retail trade. 

RETRENCHMENT AND UNEMPLOYMENT

Retrenchment numbers are also at a record low, falling from 1,320 in March to 990 in June, and the incidence of retrenchment similarly improved from 0.6 to 0.5 per 1,000 employees over the same period. 

Unemployment rates continued to edge down from March to June this year. 

  • Overall unemployment fell from 2.2 per cent to 2.1 per cent; resident unemployment fell from 3.0 per cent to 2.8 per cent, and citizen unemployment fell from 3.2 per cent to 3.0 per cent 
  • While the unemployment rate edged up among residents who have diploma and professional qualifications, the increase was from a six-year low in March and the rate remained below its pre-Covid average, MOM said 

The recruitment rate rose over the quarter, from 2.5 per cent in March to 2.6 in June, a rate that was last seen in 2014.

  • Resignation rate remained stable at 1.7 per cent for the fourth consecutive quarter
  • Over the quarter, accommodation as well as air transport and supporting services saw the largest increase in recruitment rates
  • Other consumer-facing and tourism-related sectors also saw their recruitment rates rise, as employers ramped up hiring to meet increased demand arising from the rollout of Singapore's vaccinated travel framework, MOM said. 

LABOUR MARKET OUTLOOK 

MOM said that with the significant easing of Singapore’s Covid-19 restrictions, business activities in sectors that had been badly affected by the pandemic are recovering and it is expected that non-resident employment will continue to "grow at a robust pace as it catches up to its pre-pandemic level". 

On the other hand, resident employment rates will likely see "subdued growth" due to low resident unemployment rate. 

Tourism- and aviation-related sectors are expected to continue to benefit from the strong recovery in air passengers and international visitor arrivals, while the demand in consumer-facing sectors such as food-and-beverage services should remain robust with the easing of domestic and border restrictions.

External demand outlook has also weakened given the global economic slowdown.

"Global headwinds such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict, inflationary pressures, geopolitical tensions in the region, and the trajectory of the Covid-19 pandemic may weigh on labour demand going forward, MOM said.

"As such, the labour market outlook is uneven across sectors."

Thus, growth in outward-oriented sectors such as finance and insurance services is expected to slow in the midst of these global economic headwinds.

'NOT GOOD' THAT LABOUR MARKET IS EASING QUICKLY

Speaking to the media at the MOM Building on Havelock Road, the ministry's permanent secretary Ng Chee Khern said that there are different initiatives for resident employees and non-resident employees to address the record-high job vacancies.

He said that for resident employees, the ministry is trying to raise the labour force participation rate, which is calculated as the labour force divided by the total working-age population.

"For example, initiatives such as more flexible work arrangements... (are) precisely to allow caregivers and older workers who want to do part-time work to have a bit more flexibility in their lives (so that they may) get back in and increase the labour force participation rate,” he said.

For the non-resident labour force, Mr Ng said that in addition to the current existing manpower sources, the ministry is also “exploring other sources from other countries to include in the number of potential workers that industries can employ”.

Asked if the job vacancies will be expected to go down by the end of the year, Mr Ng cautioned that a fall in this statistic may not always be a good thing.

Global economic uncertainties, such as the United States Federal Reserve raising interest rates recently, have sparked fears of a recession in the country, and the recent news of Foodpanda’s retrenchment exercise should also serve as a warning that the labour market outlook is far from rosy.

“Be careful what you ask for… the labour demand could ease sooner than you think and it might not necessarily be a good situation,” he added.

“It is tight now, and we do expect some easing… but we hope that the easing isn’t too much.”

Related topics

employment labour MOM retrench manpower Jobs

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