Employment grows, but more older workers jobless

June 14, 20169:44 am366 views

SINGAPORE — The subdued economic forecast for the year has been borne out by labour market data for the first three months of the year, with older workers continued to bear the brunt of unemployment, while the proportion of job vacancies against job seekers shrank.

And layoffs reached the highest level seen in the first quarter since 2009, with professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) making up about seven in 10 of those retrenched.

In its first quarter labour market report issued on Monday (June 13), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) found that employment growth improved from the same period last year, with 13,000 more people in employment, but noted that firms remain less optimistic of hiring and business conditions.

Hiring is also expected to further slowdown particularly in transport and precision engineering and general manufacturing due to the sluggish external conditions, said the MOM.

The seasonally-adjusted overall unemployment rate has stayed at 1.9 per cent quarter-on-quarter, while unemployment rate dipped for Singaporeans (3 per cent to 2.6 per cent). But the resident long-term unemployment rate — for persons aged 15 and over who have been out of work for at least 25 weeks — has crept up to 0.7 per cent from 0.5 per cent a year ago, the first uptick since March 2012.

Analysts TODAY spoke to said the statistics reflected a more selective and cautious hiring mood amid slower economic growth, with some sectors such as social services doing better than others, like the shipping industry for example.

Global events involving major economies such as the imminent referendum on Britain’s fate in the European Union and the upcoming US presidential elections have also caused some uncertainty among businesses, one analyst pointed out.

Last week, TODAY reported that Resorts World Sentosa was laying off 400 staff as it struggled against slowing business. University students graduating this year have also reported difficulty in finding work.

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The report showed that for residents above 50 years old, unemployment rose from 1.8 per cent to 2.2 per cent in the first quarter, resulting in a fourth consecutive quarter of increase. Based on qualifications, year-on-year unemployment in March also rose for degree holders from 2.6 per cent to 3 per cent.

The job vacancy rate in March also dipped to 103 vacancies for every 100 job seekers — the lowest since June 2012, when it stood at 98 for every 100 job seekers.

A total of 4,710 workers were laid off in the first three months of the year, down from the preceding quarter, but the highest Q1 level since 2009. About 71 per cent were PMETs, and two-thirds were aged 40 and over.

UOB economist Francis Tan said the unemployment figures showed that the tight labour market was still tight, but there are “undercurrents”, such as the lower labour force participation rate among youths aged 15 to 24, indicating fresh graduates finding it harder to get a job, and long-term unemployment rate inching up.

Noting the “very cautious” hiring mood, Mr Tan added: “If you are an entrepreneur or a firm, you don’t want people who are not tested but you also want to let go of senior people who are expensive.”

Pointing out that there are “structural and cyclical headwinds” affecting the labour market due to technology replacing some workers’ tasks, and economic slowdown affecting hiring, Mr Tan said the Government would need to pump in investments to create jobs while workers continued to stay the course in upgrading their skills.

CIMB Private Banking economist Song Seng Wun said that hiring is “selective and uneven” across industries. For example, there is demand for compliance workers — with the global moneylaundering investigations — while the oil and gas sector might not need workers.

Citing Brexit and the US elections, he added: “When consumers and businesses are worried, this creates a drag on business activity (including) less hiring.”

Member of Parliament Desmond Choo, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for manpower, noted that mature PMETs will have to explore jobs in other sectors as restructuring and slower demand costs redundancies.

Lukewarm hiring sentiments will also see them taking a longer time to re-enter the workforce, said Mr Choo, who urged workers to re-skill early on as there might be a long gestation period for learning new skills or deepening existing ones.


news source & image credits: todayonline.com

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