While jobseekers continued to outnumber the vacancies available, the situation is on the mend after seven straight quarters of declines, based on the latest labour market report from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
However, the total number of people in employment shrank the most in almost eight years: Total employment fell by 6,800 in the first quarter, reversing the modest growth of 2,300 in the fourth quarter of last year. This was the largest decline since the second quarter of 2009.
Nevertheless, MOM said the fall reflected a reduction in the foreign workforce, mainly due to a decrease in work permit holders in the manufacturing and construction sectors, as a result of low oil prices and continued weakness in private sector construction activity respectively. “At the same time, employment continued to grow in sectors such as Community, Social & Personal Services and Financial & Insurance Services,” the ministry added.
The report, which was released on Tuesday (Jun 13), showed that, seasonally adjusted, there were 81 vacancies for every 100 jobseekers at the end of the first quarter. This is an improvement over the 77 openings for every 100 jobseekers at the end of the fourth quarter of last year. This uptick comes as the total number of vacancies for the economy rose at the end of the first quarter, buoyed by an increase in seasonally adjusted vacancies among small private-sector establishments hiring fewer than 25 employees. This comes despite a dip in vacancies among private-sector firms with at least 25 employees and the public sector.
Seasonally adjusted, the unemployment rate stayed unchanged between the end of the fourth quarter of last year and the first quarter in all categories: Overall (2.2 per cent), citizens and permanent residents (3.2 per cent) and citizens (3.5 per cent).
The resident long-term unemployment rate — which refers to citizens and PRs jobless for at least 25 weeks — crept up to 0.8 per cent, compared with 0.7 per cent a year ago.
Four-thousand workers were made redundant in the first three months of the year, lower than the 5,440 workers laid off in the previous quarter but comparable to that a year ago (4,710). For the whole of last year, 19,170 workers were laid off, 23 per cent higher than the 2015 figure of 15,580.
The labour market outlook remains uneven across sectors, MOM said. Hiring expectations are still cautious in the construction and marine industries for example, while sectors such as finance and insurance, information and communications, healthcare and certain segments of manufacturing should continue to support job growth.