Singapore's unemployment rates edged up slightly in Sep 2022 to 2% overall

Singapore's unemployment rates edged up slightly in Sep 2022 to 2% overall

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However, the rates remained within the pre-COVID range.

Advance estimates from Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) show continued improvement in the labour market in Q3 2022. However, there are some "early indications of easing in the momentum of improvement amidst slower economic growth", according to the Labour Market Advance Release (Third Quarter 2022).

Overall, total employment continued to expand "robustly" in Q3, surpassing its pre-pandemic level by 1.7% in September 2022. On the other hand, while there was a slight uptick in unemployment rates and an increase in retrenchments over the quarter, both indicators remained on par with pre-COVID levels.

Total employment grew in Q3 2022, with increases among residents and non-residents

According to the release, total employment (excluding migrant domestic workers) grew by 75,600 in Q3 2022, continuing the strong growth observed in the previous quarter.


Specifically, non-residents accounted for the majority of the growth, as non-resident employment continued its rebound towards its pre-COVID level. The increase was mainly in the construction and manufacturing sectors where a higher share of non-resident workers is observed.

As further shared in the report, similar to past quarters, more residents found employment in the quarter, though the pace of increase "eased compared to the last quarter." Resident employment increases were mainly in outward-oriented sectors such as information & communications, professional services, and financial services.

Unemployment rates rose slightly in Q3 2022

Following a six-year low in August 2022, unemployment rates "edged up slightly" in September 2022 to stand at 2% overall. In specific, the unemployment rate of residents stood at 2.9% in the month, and at 3.1% for citizens. Additionally, the data showed an increase in the number of unemployed residents quarter-on-quarter: with 70,900 recorded in September, up from 69,300 in June 2022.

However, the rates remained within the pre-COVID range.


Retrenchments increased in Q3 2022

Coming to retrenchments, the number of retrenchments recorded in Q3 2022 increased to 1,600, from the previous quarter’s "all-time low" of 830. These figures, the report noted, were in manufacturing, largely due to the discontinuation of product lines as well as services, mainly due to business reorganisation or restructuring.

As the report noted, Singapore's transition to living with COVID-19, along with the progressive removal of safe management measures and border restrictions, has supported the labour market’s recovery in recent quarters, though there are signs of a slowing momentum in Q3 2022.

Looking ahead, Minister of Manpower Dr. Tan See Leng commented in a Facebook post: "In the coming months, a deteriorating global economic environment, higher global inflation, as well as geopolitical tensions, will impact the labour market."

Along these lines, Patrick Tay, NTUC Assistant Secretary-General, added in a separate Facebook post: "Notwithstanding [this uncertainty], I am cautiously optimistic that both the retrenchment and unemployment figures for the rest of 2022 will remain low and the biggest challenge from the figures and in-demand jobs is the need to overcome the structural unemployment problem…the structural mismatch of jobs, skills, and expectations as well as the new imperative to inject/provide flexibility of work and workplaces.

"In the same vein, companies and industries besides transforming will need to re-organise and re-design their work/jobs and workplaces to attract and retain workers and workers will need to stay ready, relevant and resilient to pick up new skills, face new challenges and segue into new jobs."

While forward-looking data in the report shows that overall hiring sentiments among firms remain optimistic, there could be "some unevenness in growth across sectors" in the final quarter of 2022. Demand in tourism and consumer-related sectors is expected to "remain robust", supported by the recovery of international visitor arrivals and year-end festive hiring.

In contrast, trade-reliant sectors such as manufacturing could experience more subdued employment growth as external demand weakens.

Additionally, non-resident employment is expected to continue to recover, as employers backfill their vacancies.

Finally, the proportion of firms intending to raise wages in the next three months has also held steady at about one in four, indicating that firms "remain prudent about raising wages." The risk of a wage-price spiral hence remains low for now, according to MOM. For wage growth to be sustainable, it pointed out that wages "should rise in tandem only with improvements in workers’ productivity and skills."

All photos / Ministry of Manpower

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