Corporate Wellbeing Asia 2023
Singapore's labour market continued to improve on all fronts in the first quarter of 2022

Singapore's labour market continued to improve on all fronts in the first quarter of 2022

Unemployment rates remained low, the resident long-term unemployment rate improved, and retrenchment figures fell to a record low. Full updates here.

As observed in the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) Labour Market Report First Quarter 2022, Singapore's labour market continued to improve on all fronts in Q1 2022.

On the employment front, resident employment grew beyond pre-pandemic levels, with an increase of 3.9% compared to December 2019.

Meanwhile, unemployment rates also continued to trend down to pre-pandemic levels — with overall unemployment dropping from a high of 3.6% to 2.2%.

Read on for the key updates on retrenchments, job vacancies, employment/unemployment, and more.

Retrenchments fell to a record low

Per the report, the number of retrenchments recorded in the quarter declined to a record low. In particular, 1,320 retrenchments were recorded in Q1 (or 0.6 per 1,000 employees), down from 1,500 in Q4 2021 (or 0.7 retrenched per 1,000 employees). Among retrenched residents, the percentage who re-entered employment within six months post retrenchment rose from 67% to 72%, to a high last seen in 2015.

Further, according to MOM, as business activities resumed and manpower shortages rose, employers placed fewer employees on a short workweek or temporary layoff. As a result, the level recorded in Q1 2022 (670) fell below the pre-COVID norm of the quarterly average of 740 in 2018/19.

Resident employment exceeded pre-pandemic levels 

Looking at employment — among residents, employment figures exceeded pre-pandemic levels in Q1 2022 (3.9%). The trends observed in this category were mixed across sectors, the report added: resident employment continued to rise in growth sectors such as financial services, information & communications, professional services, and health & social services. However, consumer-facing sectors faced a decline, mainly due to the seasonal pattern of temporary workers hired for year-end festivities leaving in the following quarter.

While the above was so for resident employment, non-resident employment as of March this year remained 15% below the recorded numbers in December 2019, it was noted in the report. 

As a result, total employment remained below pre-COVID levels in the quarter, despite a growth of 42,000 (excluding migrant domestic workers) that quarter. 

Unemployment rates remained low, and the resident long-term unemployment rate improved

Coming to the unemployment numbers — according to the report, citizen unemployment rates trended lower in April 2022, down from 3.2% to 3.1%. Meanwhile, the unemployment rates held steady at the pre-pandemic levels for residents and the overall labour force (3% and 2.2% respectively) in the same month.

Between December 2021 and March 2022, the resident long-term unemployment rate also improved (from 1% to 0.8%), but remained slightly above the pre-COVID quarterly average of 0.7% in 2018/19.

Job vacancies rose to a new high of 128,100

Moving on, the report highlighted a few trends observed in terms of job vacancies. In March this year, the number of these vacancies continued to rise, recording a new high of 128,100; the bulk of which were in construction and manufacturing (mainly for non-PMET job roles typically held by migrant workers), as well as in financial services, information & communications, public administration & education, and professional services (mostly PMET vacancies).

That said, comparing the data quarter-on-quarter, the rate of increase (9%) was noted to have slowed down in Q1 2022, in contrast to 17% recorded in Q4 2021. The ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons (2.42) also increased to its highest since 1998, due to a decline in unemployed persons and an increase in vacancies.

Meanwhile, recruitment and resignation rates remain unchanged in Q1 2022 at 2.5% and 1.7% respectively, after trending up in previous quarters. By occupation, PMETs experienced greater churn — their recruitment and resignation rates have been increasing, and stand above their pre-COVID averages. Nonetheless, the rates in Q1 2022 were still below record highs, the report added. By industry, information & communications, financial services, health & social services, transportation & storage and accommodation experienced higher turnover.

Commenting on the overall labour report findings, Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng said he was pleased to see continued improvement in Q1 2022. "Resident employment has grown beyond pre-pandemic levels. Non-resident employment also increased for the second consecutive quarter, though it remained lower than the pre-pandemic level.

"With the relaxation of border restrictions, we expect the inflow of non-resident workers to continue increasing, which will help to ease the tightness in the labour market in coming months. At the same time, the Government will continue to support companies to upskill their local workforce, to help them adapt to new growth areas and meet the labour demand," he added.

Image / Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng's Facebook

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