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THE outlook for jobs in the next three months appears sunnier in other parts of the Asia-Pacific region than in Singapore.
Although the labour market here will stay tight, employers are still jumpy about where the economy is going in the months ahead - and remain cautious about hiring new staff.
The latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey report released on Monday indicated that the hiring prospects in Singapore in the third quarter (Q3) will stay "relatively stable" against Q2, and dip six percentage points from a year ago.
The survey, which covered 690 Singapore employers, noted that the net employment outlook - the difference between the number of bosses looking to increase and the number to decrease recruitment - stood at a net plus 13 per cent for Q3, after allowing for seasonal adjustments.
This was about the same as for Q2 (14 per cent), but a significant drop from Q1's plus 18 per cent.
The quarterly report was produced by US-based recruitment firm ManpowerGroup, which surveyed 59,000 employers across 42 countries and territories globally.
Linda Teo, ManpowerGroup's country manager in Singapore, said: "Singapore businesses are still guarded amid a pessimistic economic outlook. Widespread restructuring is still sending shockwaves across the board, with reverberations echoing from the tightening labour market as well."
At a plus 13 per cent, the net employment outlook for Singapore for Q3 was only better than those of Australia (plus 6 per cent) and New Zealand (plus 12 per cent) among the Asia-Pacific economies; more than 15,000 employers in this region were included in the survey (see table).
The decline in Australia's mining and construction industry has hit employers' confidence in the country, the report said. New Zealand's economic downturn was even more severe, it noted.
Taiwan, with a net employment outlook of plus 42 per cent for Q3, continued to have the brightest employment prospects not only in the Asia-Pacific, but also globally.
"Job seekers (there) can expect demand for their talent to be vigorous in the months ahead - especially in the manufacturing and services sectors, where one in every two employers surveyed expect to add to their payrolls in the third quarter," said the report.
India also remained a hot market for jobs, with a net employment outlook of plus 37 per cent for Q3, even after four straight quarters of gradual decline.
"Prospects are bright for job seekers in all industry sectors and regions, but employers continue to be frustrated by a scarcity of essential skillsets, particularly in their efforts to recruit for a wide variety of technical and professional roles," the report said.
Japan reported a net employment outlook of plus 23 per cent, the strongest quarterly job outlook since Q1 2008, and after four consecutive quarters of improvement.
"Demand for talent remains solid across most of its industry sectors and robust in the mining and construction sector," the report said. "However, with the working age population declining at more than one per cent per year, employers continue to be challenged by a shrinking labour force."
China's net employment outlook for Q3 was the same as Singapore's, at plus 13 per cent. Like Singapore, it is going through an economic transition with the shift to a more services-based economy. Business optimism there has started to show signs of recovery, as projections in all industry sectors and regions improved three months ago.
"The strongest hiring plans are reported by employers in the transportation and utilities sector, where forecasts have strengthened for three consecutive quarters," the report said.
In Singapore, despite the less-than-upbeat business sentiments, staffing levels are still tipped to grow in six of the seven sectors in the next three months, against Q2. The services sector, which has a net employment outlook of plus 24 per cent, is projected to post the strongest growth in jobs.
Finance, insurance and real estate is also likely to see good job growth with a net employment outlook of plus 22 per cent; the public administration and education sector has a net employment outlook of plus 14 per cent.
Manufacturing is expected to still underperform in employment growth in Q3, with an outlook of plus 11 per cent; the net employment outlook for transport and utilities is plus 10 per cent.
Wholesale trade and retail trade, which reported uncertain hiring intentions, is the only sector tipped for a fall in the number of jobs in Q3. Its net employment outlook for the next three months is minus one per cent.