Latest data from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) revealed that the overall unemployment rate has increased from 2.3 percent in Q4 2019 to 2.4 percent in Q1 2020. Resident unemployment rate has also risen from 3.2 percent to 3.3 percent over the same period, while citizen unemployment inched up 0.2 percent to 3.5 percent.
These figures remained lower than the previous highs during SARS and the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), Singapore Business Review reports. Due to a significant fall in foreign employment, total employment has fallen by 25,600 in Q1. Meanwhile, local employment also dipped, with sharp declines in trade and tourism-related sectors outweighed increases in the financial and insurance services, public administration and education and professional services.
Retrenchments in Q1 (3,220) were significantly lower than the peak during the Global Financial Crisis (Q1 2009: 12,760) and were similar to a year ago (3,230). However, layoffs rose from Q4 2019 (2,670), largely due to sectoral downturn or poor business. Sectors with the largest quarterly rise in retrenchments are retail trade, accommodation and F&B services.
The six-month re-entry rate amongst retrenched residents also saw broad-based declines from Q4 2019 (66 percent) to Q1 2020 (64 percent).
In the same quarter, 4,190 employees were placed on short work-week or temporary layoff, which is a fivefold jump compared to the previous quarter, but still below the high registered during the GFC. Average paid hours of work also fell over the quarter from 44.7 to 44.4 hours, led by the accommodation sector.
Demand for labour eased as job vacancies shrunk in some sectors. The seasonally-adjusted number of job vacancies (46,300) dipped to its lowest since September 2010 (44,900). These were most notable in the F&B services and arts, entertainment and recreation. Coupled with a rise in jobless, the seasonally-adjusted ratio of job vacancies to unemployed individuals fell to a decade low of 0.71 in March.
On the other hand, vacancies rose slightly in sectors such as electronics manufacturing, information and communications, health and social services, and wholesale trade. Vacancies in public administration and education and financial services also remained firm.
As a result, MOM expects labour market conditions to worsen in the upcoming quarter, given the sharp fall in hiring demand globally as well as in Singapore due to circuit breaker measures.