Having returned to pre-COVID levels in February 2022, the unemployment situation held steady in March, where resident and citizen unemployment rates remained unchanged at 3% and 3.2% respectively.
Singapore's total employment continued to expand in the first quarter of 2022, by 41,100, albeit at a slightly slower pace than Q4 2021 (47,900).
According to the Manpower Research and Statistics Department (MRSD), this growth in total employment is largely in part due to an increase in work permit holders in the construction sector as border controls ease.
Resident employment trends were mixed across sectors. Outward-oriented sectors such as information & communications, and financial services continued to see steady growth. The former was driven by strong demand for IT and digital solutions, while the latter was in part driven by activities linked to financial services, such as security dealing and payments processing.
Conversely, resident employment declined in sectors such as food & beverages services, retail trade, and accommodation. These sectors typically experience employment declines following seasonal hiring for the festive period in the fourth quarter.
As for non-resident employment, the bulk of the expansion was attributed to the increase in work permit holders in the construction sector, similar to the past quarter. In all other sectors, non-resident employment was stable or only saw slight increases. MRSD anticipates continued non-resident employment growth in the quarter ahead, given the significant relaxation of border measures from April 2022.
Having returned to pre-COVID levels in February 2022, the unemployment situation held steady in March, where resident and citizen unemployment rates remained unchanged at 3% and 3.2% respectively. The overall unemployment rate edged up slightly from 2.1% to 2.2% but remained at the pre-COVID rate.
Over the quarter, the number of unemployed residents fell from 76,300 in December 2021 to 73,900 in March 2022.
As the "improving economy continues to drive the demand for workers", unemployment rates are expected to stay low amidst a tight labour market. However, MRSD cautions that there are possible downside risks – protracted supply chain disruptions and higher prices could affect business sentiments and profitability, and in turn, labour demand.
According to MRSD, the number of retrenchments is expected to decline to a record low in 1Q 2022, at 1,300 or 0.6 retrenched per 1,000 employees.
Over the quarter, retrenchments in the services sector continued to decline, while the manufacturing and construction sectors saw a "moderate" rise in retrenchments. Akin to past quarters, reorganisation / restructuring remains a common reason for the layoffs.
MRSD also continues to "observe optimism among companies with regards to hiring expectations in the quarter ahead." A higher proportion of companies indicated plans to hire in March 2022 (68%), in line with the steadily increasing number of job vacancies.
Over a quarter of companies polled in March 2022 had intention to raise wages within the upcoming three months (31%) – a slight increase from December 2021 (25%). While continued economic growth is expected, in the months ahead, MRSD believes that business sentiments could still be affected by downside risks, "given the Russia-Ukraine conflict, protracted global supply disruptions, and surging inflation."