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Q1 unemployment up a tad at 2%

MOM says more S'poreans are in the market, given the tightened foreign worker tap
Saturday, June 14, 2014 - 06:00

Singapore

THE jobless rate rose in the first three months of this year, but Singapore remains in full employment. The unemployment rate inched up from 1.8 per cent in December to a revised 2 per cent in March, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

In April, MOM had put the preliminary figure of March's jobless rate at 2.1 per cent.

But in its Labour Market First Quarter 2014 report released yesterday, MOM noted that its final figure for March was still higher than that of December.

It attributed this to more Singaporeans - particularly the less educated - joining the labour market seeking employment because more jobs with higher wages had opened up, thanks to the tightening of the tap on foreign workers.

The unemployment rate for residents (Singaporeans and Permanent Residents) crept up from 2.7 per cent in December to 2.9 per cent; for citizens, it rose from 2.8 to 3.0 per cent.

MOM said: "Despite the increase, unemployment rates were still low, comparable to earlier quarters."

The long-term jobless rate also stayed low at 0.6 per cent in March; residents still looking for work after 25 weeks or more slipped from 13,700 in March last year to 12,900 in March this year.

Job openings outnumbered job seekers, though the seasonally adjusted ratio of job vacancies to jobless persons dipped from 1.43 in December to 1.33 in March.

MOM said that while the seasonally adjusted job openings rose for a third straight quarter, the pace of increase moderated to 3 per cent in March, down from 9.2 per cent in December.

The 28,300 new jobs that came into the market in the first three months of the year were fewer than the 40,600 in the final quarter of 2013, but MOM put the year-end quarter's figure down to seasonal demand.

It said that the job number for the first quarter was "broadly comparable" to the 28,900 registered a year ago.

The latest jump in jobs brought total employment to 3,552,200, up 4 per cent year-on-year.

The bulk of the job gains in the first quarter came from services (24,900), mainly in the community, social and personal services (10,700). This was followed by professional services (3,000).

Construction employment jumped by 4,700.

The number of layoffs in manufacturing eased from 1,430 in the December quarter to 820 in the March quarter. Similarly, retrenchment in the construction sector fell from 480 to 400.

Layoffs in services jumped from 1,740 to 1,890 in the same period, but the increase was more than offset by the reductions in manufacturing and construction.

Overall, fewer workers were made redundant in the first quarter of the year - 3,110, against the 2,120 in the final three months of last year.

Despite the tight labour market, job hopping stayed unchanged; the seasonally adjusted average monthly recruitment rate was 2.6 per cent, and the resignation rate, 2 per cent.

Average total weekly paid hours per employee dipped from 46.2 hours in December to 45.9 hours in March. MOM said that this reflected shorter paid overtime of 3.6 hours, down from 3.8 hours.

Some human resource practitioners read this as a sign that employers are making headway in improving productivity in the face of labour shortage.