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Layoffs rise in Q3 but workers find jobs fast (Amended)

MOM says unemployment stays low and steady

The office crowd in Singapore's Central Business District on 2014.


THE ongoing economic restructuring squeezed more workers out of work in the third quarter, but the workers axed are unlikely to stay jobless for long.

While job openings may have eased after four straight quarters of rises, 55 per cent of Singaporeans and permanent residents retrenched in the second quarter found work within six months, against 53 per cent for those laid off in the first quarter, says the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) latest Labour Market Report.

The report in fact indicates that the latest figure shows the rate of re-entry into employment within six months of redundancy has improved for a second consecutive quarter.

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But the improvement reflects largely those in production and transport operations, cleaning and labour jobs, with nearly seven in 10 of workers in these positions securing employment by September.

"Those displaced from PMET (professional, managerial, executive and technical) positions continued to have below-average re-entry rates as they generally spent more time seeking jobs that matched their skills, qualifications and salary expectations," the report says.

Still, Michael Smith of recruitment firm Randstad says the overall improved re-entry rate signals that "it is still very much an employees' market out there".

The report says Singapore's labour market remained tight in third quarter, with the overall unemployment rate in September staying "low and steady" at a seasonally adjusted 2.0 per cent - not much changed from the earlier estimate of 1.9 per cent.

The number of the long-term jobless Singaporeans and permanent residents - those looking for work for at least 25 weeks - fell from 12,600 a year ago to 10,800. This reduced the share of long-term unemployed among resident job-seekers from 26 to 21 per cent over the year.

The stretched labour market was underscored by higher employment gains in the third quarter. Total employment rose by 33,400, up from an increase of 27,700 in the second quarter and largely the same as the 33,100 gains a year ago.

Overall, the total employment stood at almost 3.6 million in September 2014, 3.8 per cent higher than it was in September 2013.

Most of the job gains in the third quarter were in the services sector (29,400), especially in community, social and personal services (6,500), wholesale and retail trade (5,000), professional services (4,500) and financial and insurance services (3,800).

Employment in construction jumped by 3,700 and manufacturing by 500, according to the report.

MOM's report says some 3,500 workers were axed in the July-September quarter, up from 2,410 in the second quarter and 2,710 a year ago.

"Redundancy rose over the quarter for services and manufacturing, while construction posted a slight decline," it says.

Over half - 58 per cent - of the layoffs were in services. Manufacturing accounted for 36 per cent, and construction 5.9 per cent, of the layoffs.

Job vacancies dipped by a seasonally adjusted 5.9 per cent to 60,700 in September, but there were still not enough job-seekers to fill the jobs.

The seasonally adjusted ratio of job openings to the jobless rose to 142 per 100 job-seekers in September, up from 136 in June.

The openings cut across all skill levels. Professional, managerial, executive and technical positions made up 43 per cent or 29,300 of all vacancies. Clerical service and sales workers accounted for 31 per cent and transport operators, cleaners and labourers 26 per cent.

An earlier version said "over half - 58 per cent - of the retrenchment were in services". It should be "over half - 58 per cent - of the layoffs were in services". The Ministry of Manpower has clarified that the figure cited pertains to total layoffs or redundancy, which includes retrenchment and early release of contract workers due to redundancy. The article has been amended to reflect that.