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Employment growth slows among Singapore residents

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More residents held jobs last year despite economic uncertainties, but unemployment rates rose slightly

More Singapore residents held jobs at the end of last year despite economic uncertainties, although employment growth slowed slightly.

Meanwhile, unemployment rates rose, which Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said yesterday "are a concern but they are not alarming".

The annual average unemployment rate for Singaporeans rose to 3.3 per cent, up from 3 per cent in 2018, according to preliminary data released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) yesterday.

The rate for citizens and permanent residents combined rose to 3.2 per cent last year from 2.9 per cent in 2018, while the overall rate, which includes foreigners, rose to 2.3 per cent from 2.1 per cent.

Retrenchments last year for the overall workforce were slightly lower compared with 2018.

Resident and citizen unemployment rates have hovered around 3 per cent for the past decade, Mrs Teo noted.

In contrast, from 2001 to 2009, the unemployment rates were elevated at around 4 per cent to 5 per cent due to a series of shocks such as the dot.com bubble burst in 2001, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003 and the global financial crisis in 2009.

"We must remember the context of better-than-expected employment growth and the absence of a spike in retrenchments... This suggests that the challenge is not primarily a lack of job creation but possible job-skills mismatches," she said.

Local employment growth was better than expected, given the economic headwinds, Mrs Teo noted.

Employment of residents grew strongly in service industries such as community, social and personal services; professional services and information and communications, but contracted in industries such as manufacturing and wholesale trade.

In all, last year ended with 26,500 more residents in jobs, about 3 per cent lower than the 27,400 figure for 2018.

Foreign employment grew faster at 28,700. This excludes domestic helpers and was faster than the growth of 10,900 in the previous year.


Yesterday's MOM report showed retrenchments last year were slightly lower than the previous year, at 10,700 compared with 10,730, though the numbers rose over the third and fourth quarters of the year.

National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said in a Facebook post that layoffs last year were mainly due to re-organisation, restructuring and transformation alongside global uncertainties.

"The ongoing Wuhan virus and how it pans out will inevitably affect demand and impact sectors such as aviation, travel, hospitality and retail among others," he said.