Singapore—The latest report from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), released on Thursday, December 12, shows that the total employment for the first three quarters of 2019 is the highest in five years. However, due to several factors, the numbers recorded for retrenchments and unemployment have gone up as well, especially in the third quarter.
The MOM report showed that total employment grew by 38,600 in the first three quarters of this year, a number which excludes foreign domestic helpers. The increased number is reflective of the resurgence of the construction sector, since, should the numbers in that sector be excluded, the number of jobs gained in from Q1 to Q3 this year, 30,400, is comparable with the same time frame for 2018, when 30,300 jobs were added.
For Q3 of this year alone, total employment grew by 21,700, a figure that is over three times greater than in Q2 (6,200) and is higher than Q3 of 2018, when jobs grew by 16,700.
However, unemployment numbers have risen as well. Overall, the seasonally adjusted jobless rate grew from 2.2 percent to 2.3 percent. For Singaporeans, it rose from 3.2 to 3.3 percent.
For residents, the seasonally adjusted resident long-term unemployment rate for the third quarter grew from 0.6 percent to 0.7 percent. In the two previous quarters, the number had gone down.
MOM attributed the higher unemployment rate to businesses exercising more caution in hiring, which is reflected in fewer job vacancies for Q3.
From June to September, the seasonally adjusted number of vacancies decreased from 47,700 to 42,200.
Josephine Teo, the country’s Manpower Minister, told the press before the MOM report was released that when employers are cautious, it make take more time for job applicants to convince employers to hire them, and with fewer job vacancies, applicants need more time to find jobs.
“You can have a situation where employment is going up, and yet because there is caution in hiring, unemployment also goes up because people take longer to get into a job though the vacancies are there,” The New Paper (TNP) quotes her as saying.
Another factor is the greater number of older job seekers who have come back to the workforce. Ms Teo said, “By virtue of the fact that more people are looking for a job, unemployment will also go up.”
There were only 83 vacancies for every 100 job applicants in September 2019. For Q2, there were 94 vacancies for every 100 job applicants.
According to the Manpower Minister, “The (number of job) vacancies is an indicator that the confidence is still not quite so strong. If the confidence were back then I think vacancies should grow. So I will be quite cautious about it.
I hope that confidence returns, and to my mind, we have to keep a very close watch over developments. There is still a fair bit of volatility,” she added.
Ms Teo also addressed the issue of job mismatch. TODAY reports her as saying, “If we are transforming our economy at a fast enough rate, then the job skills mismatch must actually enlarge, and we must see that as an opportunity.
The story for Singapore must be that businesses do want to innovate. And when businesses innovate, the job requirements will change. And because we have a good system in place to help people acquire new skills that will make them effective in these new job roles, then the innovation story becomes one where it is possible in Singapore.” —/TISG