THE labour market in Singapore has continued to show slight improvements in the first quarter of 2018, with retrenchment numbers the lowest in nearly seven years and the unemployment rate of residents hitting a two-year low.
In a report released by the Manpower Ministry on Friday, preliminary data showed that the number of retrenchments in the first quarter of this year was 2,100.
This represents a drop from 3,680 in the preceding quarter and half the 4,000 in the same quarter last year.
The latest figure is also the lowest since the third quarter of 2011, when the number of retrenchments stood at 1,960.
Retrenchments declined over the first quarter of this year in manufacturing, construction and services, said MOM in the report.
The overall unemployment rate too has fallen to 2 per cent, from 2.1 per cent in the preceding quarter.
The latest resident unemployment rate is 2.8 per cent, down from 3 per cent in the previous quarter - the lowest since the first quarter of 2016 - while that of citizens remained unchanged at 3 per cent.
The estimated number of unemployed citizens dipped from 58,600 to 57,900, said the report.
Total employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, contracted by 2,100 in the first quarter of this year.
MOM said this was due largely to a decrease in work-permit holders in the construction and marine shipyard sectors.
It added that sectors such as community, social and personal services, financial and insurance, information and communications, as well as transportation and storage, continued to see an increase in employment.
However, MOM cautioned: "While unemployment rates have declined from a year ago, further improvement will be harder to achieve." It added: "Addressing potential job-skills mismatches remains critical, as the economy restructures and the profile of the resident labour force evolves."
Commenting on the data in a Facebook post on Friday, labour MP Patrick Tay said he was glad to see that retrenchments had fallen significantly, adding that he expected retrenchment numbers to remain low for the first half of the year.
But the assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress also cautioned: "Although this may suggest an improved economic outlook... we have to be mindful that there may still be pockets of layoffs in some firms and sectors due to technological disruption and business restructuring as the economy transforms."
Adapted from The Business Times, 28 Apr 2018.