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Employment grew in third quarter this year, but so did unemployment: MOM

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Employment grew in the third quarter this year as the economy picked up slightly, even as unemployment, including long-term unemployment, crept up, according to a Manpower Ministry report on Thursday.

[SINGAPORE] Employment grew in the third quarter this year as the economy picked up slightly, even as unemployment, including long-term unemployment, crept up, according to a Manpower Ministry report on Thursday.

One plausible cause is that employers are hiring more cautiously, as the number of job vacancies shrank, the report added.

Total employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, grew by a revised 21,700 between July and September this year - over three times the 6,200 jobs growth between April and June this year and the 16,700 in the same period last year, the final labour figures for the third quarter showed. The advance estimate was for 22,400.

But the unemployment rate, as well as the long-term unemployment rate for residents, inched up, the report noted.

The overall seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 2.3 per cent from 2.2 per cent in the previous quarter.

The rate for Singaporeans rose to 3.3 per cent, up from 3.2 per cent, while the rate for citizens and permanent residents combined climbed to 3.2 per cent, up from 3.1 per cent. The jobless rates were unchanged from October's flash estimates.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said at a media briefing that one reason for the mixed picture of employment growth and increased unemployment could be that applicants are taking longer to land a job. "We believe (that) to be the case," Mrs Teo said.

Fewer vacancies will be available if employers are more cautious about hiring, she said, pointing out that the number of job openings has fallen.

The seasonally-adjusted number of job vacancies fell from 47,700 in June to 42,200 in September, the report noted.

The hiring process can take longer because applicants may need more time to persuade employers to get them onboard, she added.

Another factor could be that the applicant may have a clearer idea of what he or she wants, assuming that they have had previous work experience, and take a longer time to find a suitable opening, Mrs Teo said.

"During this period, (the applicant) is unemployed," she said, listing also a higher number of job-seekers returning to the workforce after a break as another possible reason for the higher unemployment rate.

"Just by the virtue of more people looking for a job, unemployment will also go up," she said.

Mrs Teo said that employment growth in the third quarter this year was larger than the the preceding quarter and the same period last year, which gives a reason for cheer.

The report noted that the bulk of employment growth came from the services sector, led by industries such as information and communications, financial and insurance, social and personal, and, administrative and support.

Job vacancies continue to be available in these areas, it added.

Mrs Teo said: "(The higher employment growth) suggests to us that there is still some resilience in the labour market because it is still growing in spite of the economic headwinds."

The Manpower Ministry also noted the number of retrenchments between July and September (2,430) was slightly higher than the previous quarter (2,320), but was lower on a year-on-year basis (2,860).

Retrenchments between October last year and September this year stood at 10,490, lower than the period between October 2017 and September 2018 (11,900) and October 2016 and September 2017 (16,480).

The top reason cited for retrenchments was business restructuring and reorganisation, the report noted.

THE STRAITS TIMES