Good news on the job market front: retrenchment lowest in 5 years

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

Things continue to look up for the job market: the first quarter labour market report from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) shows that the number of retrenchments are the lowest they’ve been since 2013.

And here’s even more good news: the number of employment opportunities is now greater than the number of jobseekers, especially in the PMET (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) sector. This is the first time this has happened since March 2016.

Photo: Ministry of Manpower

In the last quarter of 2017, there were 3,680 retrenchments. They are lower not only in the previous quarter, but are also down significantly from from the same period last year, when the number was at 4,000.

Retrenchments have primarily been due to business restructuring and reorganization. It pays to note that most retrenchments have come from the service industry (63%)—from professional and financial services, and also from wholesale trade.

With regards to unemployment, here are the MOM’s latest findings:

Resident unemployment has fallen from 3% to 2.8 %
Citizen unemployment has held steady at 3%
Seasonally adjusted unemployment is down to 2% in March, from 2.1% in December

There has been a growth in services across all sectors, which has given rise to more employments. With regards to total employments, there were 3,700 new employments from January to March 2018, 3,300 of which went to foreign domestic workers.

The MOM has said that the increase in services is even greater than jobs lost in construction and manufacturing.

Job seekers have an easier time than ever, with more jobs now available than there are unemployed people. The ratio of available jobs to jobseekers is now above 1. In December there were 92 opportunities for every 100 unemployed people, and in March there were 104 vacancies per hundred people. The PMET sector is responsible for this rise in employment opportunities, as well as openings in the community, social and personal services and the transportation and storage sector.

The MOM report indicates that things will get even better for job seekers this year, with employment opportunities opening up in various service sectors including healthcare, logistics and wholesale trade, finance and insurance, infocomms and media and professional services.

The MOM report warned the construction and marine shipyard sector, saying they may want to exercise caution with employment opportunities, since job vacancies are not spread out equally across the different sectors. With the unemployment rate for residents lower than it has been in the last two years, the report warned that improvements could be more difficult to achieve. “To keep unemployment low, it is critical to prepare workers and businesses to be agile and responsive to economic restructuring and the evolving employment landscape.”

Through the Adapt and Grow initiative, the MOM will be working with Workforce Singapore to help workers improve their skills, and will be helping businesses grow via various other programs as well.

Patrick Tay, assistant secretary-general of the National Trade Unions Congress (NTUC), responded to the MOM report on a post on social media, saying “For the first half of 2018, I expect retrenchment figures to remain low but we will expect to still see pockets of layoffs due to re-organisation, restructuring and re-strategisation amidst technological/digital disruption and the rise of cloud, machine and crowd.”


He also said that “Structural challenges such as skills and jobs mismatches which will be one of the main cause of unemployment in Singapore in the near and medium term.”

However, Mr. Tay’s post ended in a positive note, “Overall, it will not be an easy task but we all need to have the Right Mindset, Right Skillset and Right Toolset to navigate the wave of change and growth.”