Wednesday, 29 September, 2021

Singapore’s total service down in Q2

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s total employment fell in the second quarter as Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) took a toll, though unemployment rates continued to improve, according to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) advance release of Q2 labour market statistics on Friday.

Total employment had risen in Q1 after a year of declines in 2020, but fell again in Q2 by 15,700, as a slower rise in resident employment only partly offset a continued fall in non-resident employment, report agencies.

MOM attributed the slower resident employment growth to declines in domestically-oriented sectors hit by Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) measures, such as food and beverage services and retail trade.

In contrast, resident employment continued to grow steadily in outward-oriented sectors such as information and communications; professional services; and community, social and personal services.

Meanwhile, non-resident employment declined more sharply across most sectors, as departing workers were not replaced due to border restrictions. The construction industry, which has been notably affected by entry curbs, saw employment levels fall by 5,200.

Asked if the reimposition of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) in July might also weaken the labour market in the third quarter, MOM permanent secretary Aubeck Kam said that a similar effect may possibly be expected.

But he added that it depends on how the Covid-19 situation will develop in the rest of the third quarter, with vaccination affecting how much economic activity, particularly for domestic services, will be able to catch up: “There is still much to play for in Q3.”

Friday’s flash figures did not include specific figures for the respective changes in resident employment and non-resident employment. The fuller Labour Market Report Q2 2021 will be released in mid-September, with more details such as resident and non-resident employment, sectoral breakdowns, and re-entry rates for retrenched residents.

Though employment levels were down, unemployment rates continued to improve. Overall unemployment edged down to 2.7 per cent, from 2.8 per cent before.

Resident unemployment fell to 3.7 per cent, from 3.8 per cent before, while citizen unemployment fell to 3.8 per cent, from 4 per cent before.

In June, there were 86,600 unemployed residents, down from 95,500 in March.

While retrenchments rose in the second quarter, the incidence was comparable to pre-Covid levels. MOM said that based on latest survey returns to date, about 2,500 retrenchments are expected to have happened in Q2, up from 2,270 in Q1.

The rise was mainly due to a modest uptick in layoffs in manufacturing - 900 retrenchments, up from 320 the previous quarter - and construction, with 100 layoffs, up from 20.

Services still accounted for the bulk of layoffs at 1,500, but this was fewer than the 1,930 in Q1.

“In sectors directly impacted by the tighter restrictions, such as food and beverages services, no notable increases were observed,” said MOM.

The likelihood of retrenchments in Q2 is expected to be 1.3 retrenchments per 1,000 employees, similar to the 1.2 rate in Q1 and comparable to pre-pandemic levels in 2018 and 2019.