After sliding for five straight quarters, corporate hiring plans in the next three months in Singapore are tipped to hit the lowest since the last recession.
Global employment firm ManpowerGroup's latest net employment outlook for April-May 2016, based on a poll of 693 employers, stood at a seasonally-adjusted 10 per cent. Only in July-September 2009 was the net employment outlook - then around 5 per cent - lower.
Net employment outlook is the difference between the proportion of employers wanting to boost and the proportion wanting to trim their headcount.
"Hiring prospects remain relatively stable when compared with the previous quarter but decline by four percentage points year over year," according to the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey for the second quarter of 2016.
Still, 76 per cent of the bosses polled intended to freeze headcount in the April-May quarter, up from 68 per cent in Q1, though only 4 per cent planned to reduce - down from 6 per cent.
Linda Teo, ManpowerGroup country manager for Singapore, said: "The dimmer hiring outlook is not surprising amid a sluggish economic environment."
"It's a bearish sentiment we're seeing as local employers face internal pressures of high operational costs and business nerves continue to be frayed over China's slowdown, which impact trade-dependent economies like ours."
Last year, Singapore's economy grew just 2.1 per cent, the slowest since 2009. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has projected growth for 2016 to fall between one and 3 per cent.
By sectors, the net employment outlook for Q2 is the same - 12 per cent - for finance, insurance & real estate, mining & construction, and services.
Public administration/education and transportation & utilities both returned a net employment outlook of 9 per cent. It is 6 per cent for wholesale trade & retail trade and 5 per cent for manufacturing.
"The pockets of hiring growth are where either top talent or ground-level workers are in short supply," said Ms Teo.
Weaker hiring is indicated for all seven sectors in Q2, compared to a year ago.
"The most noteworthy declines are in the finance, insurance & real estate sector (down nine percentage points) and the public administration/education sector (down eight percentage points," the report said.
Services, transportation & utilities and wholesale trade & retail trade each returned a seven percentage point drop in net employment outlook.
Quarter on quarter, hiring intentions for Q2 weakened in four of the seven sectors, with public administration/education down the most at 11 percentage points.
The net employment outlook for transportation & utilities is four percentage points weaker, while the hiring prospects in finance, insurance & real estate is down three percentage points.
There is no change in the net employment outlook for services and mining & construction.
Wholesale trade & retail trade is the only sector with brighter hiring prospects, indicated by a net employment outlook of 6 per cent.
This article was first published on March 10, 2016.
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