Sunday 15 June 2014

Job vacancies hit highest level in eight years

Labour Market, First Quarter 2014
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 14 Jun 2014

THE number of job vacancies in Singapore hit its highest level in eight years during the first quarter of this year - despite a slight rise in the percentage of job-seekers.

Seasonally adjusted Ministry of Manpower (MOM) figures released yesterday showed there were 62,500 available positions, a quarterly rise of 3 per cent and the biggest number since comparable records began in 2006.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate rose to 2 per cent between January and March, up from 1.8 per cent at the end of last year. Figures have hovered within this range for the past two years.

For Singapore citizens, the unemployment rate rose from 2.8 per cent to 3 per cent, while for residents, it climbed from 2.7 per cent to 2.9 per cent.

Experts yesterday suggested that a mismatch between job-seekers' skills and those desired by employers could be to blame.

The rising number of job-seekers could be down to the fact that "more residents, especially the less educated, were encouraged to enter the labour force, given more job openings and an increase in wages", MOM said.

There were 1.33 vacancies to every job-seeker between January and March, down from 1.43 in December.

"Unemployment and vacancies can sometimes rise together if there are temporary skill mismatches between industry and the domestic labour pool," said Barclays economist Leong Wai Ho.

"Another cause can be differences in wage expectations between employers and employees."

Association of Small and Medium Enterprises president Kurt Wee believes the mixed signals reflect a job market in transition.

He said: "SMEs are trying to improve their human resource practices and welfare benefits to attract employees, and they are paying more too."

Mr Wee hopes workers will have a more open mindset towards the jobs available and upgrade their skills to target the industry that they want to work in.

Most of the vacancies were found in the service sector.

Recruitment firm Adecco Singapore expects continued job growth in retail, banking, insurance and finance, with front-line staff being in high demand.

Fewer workers were laid off in the first quarter - 3,110, down from 3,660 at the end of last year.

The number of residents unemployed for at least 25 weeks fell to 12,900 in March from 13,700 a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the total number of people in employment in the last quarter grew by 28,300, better than preliminary estimates.

Adecco Singapore's country manager Femke Hellemons expects the labour market to continue to be driven by job-seekers.

"We expect to continue seeing the 'wait and see' approach from many job-seekers," she said.

"Hiring companies need to be aware of this and make job offers both competitive and enticing."

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