Job market continues to improve, fewer retrenchments: MOM report

Analysts expect better prospects for jobseekers amid growth in economy

The Singapore job market continues to improve, with fewer people getting retrenched and more vacancies in the first three months of this year.

Layoffs plunged to a five-year low, with 2,320 workers asked to go compared with 4,000 in the same quarter last year, according to the Manpower Ministry's labour market report yesterday.

Economists interviewed see it declining further this year.

CIMB Private Bank's s economist Song Seng Wun said: "The worst seems to be behind for some vulnerable sectors like oil and gas."

Oil prices have been recovering since the start of this year.

Another improvement is that for the first time in two years, there were more job vacancies than jobless people, the MOM figures show.

The ratio rose to 1.04 in March.

The brighter job market is due to Singapore's economy growing faster last year when it jumped to 3.5 per cent, more than double the initial forecast.

"This has led companies to push through with expansion plans," noted Mr Paul Endacott, regional managing director for Asia of recruitment firm Ambition Group.

With these improvements, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dipped in March this year to 2 per cent against 2.2 per cent a year earlier.

But for Singaporeans, it was 3 per cent. It slips to 2.8 per cent when permanent residents are included.

The corresponding rates a year earlier were 3.5 per cent and 3.2 per cent.

Typically, the rate for Singaporeans is higher as foreigners may leave the country when they are out of a job, noted Mr Joshua Yim, chief executive officer of recruitment agency Achieve Group.

The two groups of jobseekers that continue to struggle are: those aged 50 and older and PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians).

In a Facebook post yesterday, labour MP Patrick Tay said efforts to support older workers and PMETs - who make up the largest groups of those retrenched - need to be maintained.

The labour report shows 53,900 vacancies in March and more than half were for PMETs.

A year ago, the vacancies totalled 46,900, after seasonal adjustments.

The ministry expects overall labour demand to expand this year, although it will be uneven across sectors.