Unemployment Up While Job Vacancies Fell Last Year

Singapore’s labour market in 2016 was marked by rising unemployment, more people taking longer to find work, and fewer job vacancies, according to the official full-year data released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) today (15 Mar). 

The annual average unemployment rate rose to 2.1 per cent overall, up from 1.9 per cent in 2015.

For Singaporeans, it rose to 3.1 per cent, up from 2.9 per cent while for Singaporeans and permanent residents combined, it rose to 3 per cent from 2.8 per cent.

17,000 residents were also long-term unemployed last year. This means that they could not find work for at least 25 weeks. They represent 0.8 per cent of the resident labour force, an increase after the rate remained at 0.6 per cent for the past five years. 

Degree holders were amongst the worst, with a long-term unemployment rate of 1 per cent, the highest rate since 2004. 

More workers were retrenched or had their contracts cancelled. Redundancies rose to 19,170, often due to business restructuring. 

However, the proportion of residents who were back in work within six months of losing their jobs was 47.9 per cent on average last year, the first time in at least five years it fell below 50 per cent. 

The ratio of job vacancies to jobseekers fell to 0.77 in December last year, after accounting for seasonal variations. It was the third quarter of decline, with the number of vacancies falling to a four-year low of 47,600.

Singaporeans in full-time jobs still enjoyed higher salaries last year, with the median income including employer contributions to the Central Provident Fund rising 0.7 per cent to $3,823. After adjusting for negative inflation, the real income growth was 1.3 per cent.

Worker productivity also improved. Labour productivity, measured as value-added per actual hour worked, rose 1.4 per cent last year, up from 1 per cent in 2015.

The manufacturing, transportation and storage, and wholesale and retail trade sectors performed well. However, productivity fell in the business services, construction, accommodation, and food services sectors. 

The Adapt and Grow programmes has been enhanced to help jobseekers reduce mismatches and missed opportunities in the labour market as the economy restructures, said MOM.

“With slower local labour force growth and the improving skills and education profile of our workforce, our priority is to maximise the quality of jobs, both in new growth areas as well as through re-designing of existing jobs,” said the ministry.

The ministry expects labour demand to remain modest, in line with the modest economic growth forecast released by the Ministry of Trade and Industry. 

Source: “Unemployment and layoffs up last year, while job vacancies fell: MOM”, The Straits Times, 15 March 2017. 

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