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Unemployment in SG remains unchanged in Q3 2016, productivity rises marginally

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Singapore’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 2.1% in September 2016 (end of Q3 2016) compared to June 2016 (end of Q2 2016), in the latest Economic Survey for Q3 2016. Unemployment among residents (2.9% in September Q3 2016 compared to 3% in June) and citizens (3% in September compared to 3.1% in June) remained stable.

That implies, about 66,500 residents, including 58,500 Singapore citizens, were unemployed as of September 2016 – lower than the 68,400 and 60,200 respectively in June 2016.

Overall, total employment declined by 3,300 over the previous quarter (Q2), the second time that quarterly employment has declined since the 2008/2009 recession.

The manufacturing sector registered its eighth consecutive quarter of employment decline (-3,700), put down to a fall in employment in the precision engineering and transport engineering clusters, as firms supporting the global oil and gas industry faced weak demand.

Employment in the construction sector contracted by 5,200 on the back of sluggish private sector construction activities. Employment in the services sector rose by 5,700 in Q3, driven by growth in the “other services” industries (3,100), such as education, health and social services segment.

The wholesale and retail trade sector registered the largest employment decline (-1,400), in part due to the sluggish performance of retail sales (excluding motor vehicles).

As at September 2016, total employment in Singapore reached 3,670,200, 0.8% higher compared to a year ago.

Update on redundancies, Q3 2016

Redundancies also fell over the quarter. Around 4,100 workers were made redundant in Q3, down from the 4,800 in the previous quarter. However, layoffs in Q3 2016 were higher than the 3,460 in Q3 2015.

Broadly, redundancies were highest in the services sector (falling from 3,000 in Q2 to 2,400 in Q3), and manufacturing sector (falling from 1,380 to 1,100). Redundancies in the construction sector increased to 600 in Q3, from 350 in Q2.

Brief on labour productivity and cost, Q3 2016

Overall labour productivity, as measured by value-added per worker, grew by 0.1% in Q3 2016, compared to Q3 2015, with the highest productivity in manufacturing (4.5%) and construction (1.4%).

In contrast, wholesale and retail trade (-1.8%), business services (-1.7%), and transportation and storage (-1.3%) sectors experienced the sharpest declines in productivity.

Unit labour cost (ULC) for Singaporean economy rose by 3.9% in Q3 2016, faster than the 3.7% increase in the second quarter, driven by an increase in total labour cost per worker and weak labour productivity growth.

Manufacturing sector ULC declined by 0.8%, the third consecutive quarter of decline, as a result of productivity gains in the sector. By contrast, services ULC increased by 5% in Q3 2016, in part due to a decline in their productivity.

Construction ULC also increased by 3.6%, as the rise in total labour cost per worker outpaced the growth in labour productivity for the sector.

Hiring expectations, Q4 2016

The hiring outlook of the manufacturing sector continued to be negatively affected by firms in the oil-related segments. According to EDB’s Business Expectations Survey for the Manufacturing Sector, a net weighted balance of 9% of manufacturers expect to hire fewer workers in Q4 2016, compared to Q3 2016, primarily driven by negative hiring expectations in the marine and offshore engineering segment.

By contrast, firms in the semiconductors and medical technology segments are more optimistic, with a net weighted balance of 10% and 38% of firms respectively expecting to increase hiring in Q4.

According to DOS’ Business Expectations Survey for the Services Sector, a net weighted balance of 6% of services firms expect to increase hiring in Q4 2016, driven by retail trade (24%) and food and beverage services industries (20%) sentiment, potentially reflecting demand for year-end seasonal festivities.

Photo / 123RF

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