CNA – Job vacancies in the first quarter of 2022 hit a record high, while retrenchments are at a low, signs of a tight labour market as Singapore recovers from the pandemic.
Resident employment in the first quarter (Q1) exceeded pre-pandemic levels, but total employment in Singapore remained below pre-COVID levels with foreign labour yet to fully return.
Resident employment was 3.9 per cent higher than in December 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
But non-resident employment in March this year remained 15 per cent below December 2019, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in its latest labour report yesterday.
Unemployment rates continued to trend down to pre-pandemic levels from a high of 3.6 per cent to 2.2 per cent. The resident unemployment rate – which covers Singapore citizens and permanent residents – is now three per cent, while the rate for citizens is 3.1 per cent.
Total employment, excluding migrant domestic workers, continued to expand by 42,000 in Q1 2022, with most of the increase coming from non-residents (36,000), as border restrictions were progressively lifted and employers back-filled vacancies for jobs that are more reliant on migrant workers, MOM said.
Resident employment trends were mixed across sectors, continuing to rise in growth sectors such as financial services, information and communications, professional services, and health and social services.
But there was a decline in consumer-facing sectors, mainly due to the seasonal pattern of temporary workers hired for year-end festivities leaving in the following quarter, said the ministry.
Between December 2021 and March 2022, the resident long-term unemployment rate improved from one per cent to 0.8 per cent, but remained slightly above the pre-COVID quarterly average of 0.7 per cent in 2018/19.
The number of job vacancies continued to rise, reaching a new high of 128,100 in March.
However, the rate of increase has slowed to nine per cent compared to the previous quarter’s 17 per cent.
The ratio of job vacancies to unemployed people is 2.42, which is higher than the previous quarter’s 2.11, and at its highest since 1998, due to a decline in unemployed persons and increase in vacancies.
The bulk of the job vacancies were in construction and manufacturing, mainly for non-PMET job roles typically held by migrant workers, said MOM.
Vacancies were also found in financial services; information and communications; public administration and education; and professional services, most of which are for PMET positions.
The number of retrenchments declined from 1,500, or 0.7 retrenched per 1,000 employees, in the fourth quarter of 2021 to 1,320, or 0.6 per 1,000 employees.
Among retrenched residents, the percentage who re-entered employment within six months post retrenchment rose, from 67 per cent to 72 per cent – a high last seen in 2015.
Employers also placed fewer employees on a short work-week or temporary layoff and the level in Q1 2022 (670) was below the pre-COVID norm (quarterly average of 740 in 2018/19).
The resignation rate was 1.7 per cent while the recruitment rate was 2.5 per cent, remaining unchanged after trending up in previous quarters. By occupation, professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) experienced “greater churn”.
“Their recruitment and resignation rates have been creeping up, and were now above their pre-COVID averages. Nonetheless, the rates in the first quarter were still below record highs,” said MOM.
By industry, information and communications, financial services, health and social services, transportation and storage, and accommodation experienced higher turnover.
“With the significant relaxation of border restrictions, we expect the non-resident workforce to continue to recover, catching up with the strong resident employment growth over the past two years. This will provide some relief to the current labour market tightness,” said the ministry.
“At the same time, the deterioration of the external economic environment, due in part to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, has weakened the demand outlook for some of our outward-oriented sectors. This may in turn cool labour demand going forward.”