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Unemployment rates remain stable, while retrenchments ease: Singapore labour market Q4 2023

Unemployment rates remain stable, while retrenchments ease: Singapore labour market Q4 2023

At the same time, total employment (excluding migrant domestic workers) grew for the ninth consecutive quarter, increasing by 8,400.

Singapore's Ministry of Manpower released an advanced report on the labour market in Q4 2023, showing that the rate of unemployment remained stable in the quarter, while retrenchments eased. 

As a whole, employment grew for both residents and non-residents for the entire 2023, but the pace of growth slowed down in each consecutive quarter due to weaker economic conditions. 

In an update on 31 January 2024 (Wednesday)MOM said that despite a decrease in labour demand, the labour market continued to be constrained. As a result, unemployment rates remained consistently low and stable, and in 2023, the number of layoffs increased compared to the record-low in 2022, primarily due to organisational changes or restructuring within companies.

Take a look at the three main findings from the report: 


Q4 2023 

In the fourth quarter of 2023, total employment (excluding migrant domestic workers) grew for the ninth consecutive quarter, increasing by 8,400. However, the rate of growth significantly slowed down for both residents and non-residents. This deceleration was not unexpected, as weaker hiring expectations and a decrease in job vacancies from previous quarters had already indicated a reduction in labour demand.


2023 overview 

The total employment growth for the year 2023 decreased from 227,800 to 89,400 and was mainly from non-residents. The more muted pace of growth was seen for both residents & non-residents.




Q4 2023

Unemployment rates remained unchanged in December 2023 (overall: 2.0%; resident: 2.8%; and citizen: 2.9%). Further, the number of unemployed residents in September 2023 was similar to that of December 2023 (67,900). 


2023 overview 

The unemployment situation remained stable and low in 2023 amid the tight labour market (overall: 1.9%; resident: 2.7%; citizen: 2.9%). As pointed out in the report, Singapore’s unemployment rate is also one of the lowest compared to other developed countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, and South Korea.



Q4 2023

Retrenchments fell from 4,110 in Q3 2023 to 3,200 in Q4 2023, after a surge in Wholesale Trade retrenchments in the previous quarter. While retrenchments rose in electronics manufacturing, the number of retrenchments in other sectors remained broadly stable or declined.


2023 overview 

For the whole of 2023, the number of retrenchments rose from a record-low of 6,440 in 2022, to 14,320 in 2023.

Business restructuring remained the top reason for retrenchments in 2023, due in part to the impact of global economic headwinds on outward-oriented sectors such as wholesale trade, IT Services, and electronics manufacturing.

In 2023, business restructuring continued to be the primary cause of retrenchments, due to the effects of global economic challenges on sectors that are outward-oriented, including wholesale trade, IT services, and electronics manufacturing.

labour market 6

In short, according to MOM's surveys, there is a positive shift in business expectations, aligning with the Ministry of Trade & Industry's anticipation of improved economic growth in 2024.

On the hiring front, the percentage of companies expressing an intent to hire in the next three months increased from 42.8% in the Q3 2023 to 47.7% in Q4 2023. Similarly, it was added, the percentage of firms planning to raise wages rose from 18.0% to 32.6%.

However, given the persistent downside risks in the global economy, ongoing business reorganisation or restructuring may persist, potentially resulting in additional retrenchments.

MOM shared: "The Government strongly encourages employers and workers to make full use of available programmes to remain competitive and resilient amidst economic uncertainty.

"Employers should press on with business transformation and equip their workers for expanded or redesigned job roles. Workers are encouraged to continue to upskill and be open to new opportunities."

READ MORE:  Industries with the highest pay raises and cuts in SEA last year, for 2024's salary planning

Infographics: Provided by Ministry of Manpower 

Lead image / Labour Market Advance Release Fourth Quarter 2023 Statistics

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