Singapore's Ministry of Manpower has released the Labour Market Advance Release 2Q 2019, which points to a growth of 4,000 in total employment (excluding FDWs, or foreign domestic workers), lower than the previous quarter (10,700) and a year ago (6,500).

The growth in employment came from the following sectors: information & communications, professional services, community, social & personal services, and financial services.

However, the increases were mostly offset by the decline in employment in retail trade. As a result, employment growth in services slowed. Employment in construction picked up, while employment in manufacturing continued to contract for the third consecutive quarter.

NTUC Assistant Secretary-General Patrick Tay, analysed the trends: "The labour market is feeling the effects of the ongoing global shifts and synchronised slowdown coupled with local economic transformation and restructuring.

"I anticipate continued uncertainties in the second half of 2019 as well as structural challenges which will remain the two main challenges for Singapore."

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On the positive side, layoffs have remained low - retrenchments in Q2 2019 (2,300) were lower than in Q1 2019 (3,230) and a year ago (3,030). The declines were observed across all three broad sectors (manufacturing, construction, and services).

ASG Tay cautioned on these trends: "While we did not see a sudden spike in retrenchment numbers (seen as a lag indicator) in Q2, continued fluctuations from quarter to quarter are expected, especially with the continued US-China trade tensions."

Another trend to watch is that the resident and citizen unemployment rates continued to inch upwards. The unemployment rate rose over the quarter for residents (from 3.0% to 3.1%) and citizens (from 3.2% to 3.3%), continuing the uptrend since September 2018.

However, the seasonally adjusted overall unemployment rate was unchanged in June 2019 (2.2%).

In its statement, the Ministry assured that it is closely monitoring the labour market situation, and stands ready to step up support for Singaporeans under the Adapt and Grow initiative.

"In particular, the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation remains vigilant and is proactively reaching out to retrenched workers to provide them with timely employment support, including job matching," it stated.

Along similar lines, ASG Tay added: "Just as how we’ve managed to overcome the series of slowdowns/downturns in the past two decades, the Labour Movement stands ready to work closely with our tripartite partners to help our workers tackle tough times."

His message to employers? "We urge companies to take reference from the tripartite guidelines on managing excess manpower and cut costs to save jobs instead of cutting jobs to save costs."

Photo / Patrick Tay's Facebook page