Sunday 16 December 2012

Job growth high despite more layoffs in Third Quarter 2012: Ministry of Manpower

By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia, 14 Dec 2012

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said employment growth stayed high despite a rise in layoffs in the third quarter of this year.

Job openings increased, bucking the declines in the preceding two quarters, said a MOM statement on Friday.

The seasonally-adjusted vacancies rose by 13 per cent over the quarter to 51,500 in September 2012. There are now 125 job openings per 100 job seekers, up from 91 in June.

The seasonally-adjusted overall jobless rate dipped marginally to 1.9 per cent in September 2012 from 2.0 per cent a quarter ago, while the unemployment rates for residents and Singapore citizens were unchanged at 2.8 per cent and 3.0 per cent respectively.

The ministry said unemployment rates have remained low, reflecting high manpower demand amid the tightening in foreign manpower controls.

Total employment grew by 26,200 in the third quarter of 2012, moderating from the growth of 31,900 in the same period last year, and 31,700 in the second quarter of 2012.

In the first nine months of 2012, total employment grew by 85,100 -- just slightly more than the increase of 85,000 in the same period last year.

Layoffs rose after declining in the preceding two quarters; 2,850 workers were made redundant in the third quarter of 2012, comprising 2,430 workers retrenched and 420 workers whose contracts were terminated prematurely.

This was one of the few higher quarterly redundancy figures reported in post-recessionary periods, but they remained substantially below recessionary highs, said MOM.

Based on CPF records, slightly more than one in two (52 per cent) residents laid off in the second quarter of 2012 secured employment by September 2012. This rate of re-entry into employment within six months of redundancy fell from 60 per cent experienced by the previous cohort (laid off in the first quarter) in June 2012.

Looking at employment growth in the different sectors of Singapore, the MOM report said job growth in the services and manufacturing sectors slowed down in the third quarter of this year. But employment in the construction sector continued to remain high because of the various infrastructure projects being undertaken.

Job growth in services slowed from 21,200 in the third quarter of 2011 to 12,700 in the third quarter of 2012. Some economists said this slowdown is of concern.

"The key concern is the services sector; it has contracted quite significantly and we must monitor this very closely," said Professor Shandre Thangavelu from the Department of Economics at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

But the economist also said there are bright spots within the services sector.

"Certain sectors have shown some growth. Real estate has shown growth in employment and that is because of the buoyancy in the construction sector. Public service and civil service has shown some employment growth."

The resident long-term unemployment rate was 0.4 per cent in September this year, returning to the low numbers seen in 2007 before the 2009 recession.

Speaking to Channel NewsAsia in an earlier interview, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said it was not possible to have zero unemployment.

But as part of efforts to ensure that Singaporeans are meaningfully employed and the opportunities are there, he said we need to strengthen efforts with continuing education and training.

"Job creation, job training – both are key so that we help our workers be as employable as possible. This also means coming up with more ways to bring older workers and women returning to the workforce," said Mr Tan.

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