Fewer residents unemployed but more older workers without jobs in Q1 2016: MOM

SINGAPORE - Despite the uncertain economic climate, fewer Singapore citizens and residents were unemployed in the first quarter of the year.

But it was not all good news, as the number of jobs added to the economy fell from the final quarter of 2015, with layoffs continuing to increase for older workers.

According to the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) labour market report for the first quarter of 2016, an estimated 60,400 residents, including 50,800 Singaporeans, were unemployed in March 2016.

This was lower than the 64,600 residents and 57,900 citizens unemployed last December. In this period, the unemployment rate fell from 2.9 per cent to 2.7 per cent for residents, and from 3 per cent to 2.6 per cent for citizens.

The overall unemployment rate remained unchanged at 1.9 per cent.

The decline in unemployment comes despite news that a number of multinational corporations, including Barclays, Yahoo and Goldman Sachs, have reduced their workforce in Singapore.

However, more residents in their 30s and older were without a job. In particular, unemployment among residents aged 50 and over rose for the fourth consecutive quarter from 1.8 per cent to 2.2 per cent.

Long-term unemployment, referring to those who are out of work for 25 weeks or more, also inched up from 0.5 per cent last year to 0.7 per cent this year.

A total of 13,000 jobs were added to the economy in the first quarter of the year, lower than the growth of 16,100 recorded in 2015's final quarter.

But this is still higher than the sharp contraction of 6,100 experienced in the first quarter of last year.

The service industry added 13,200 jobs, while construction added another 1,900 on the back of public sector building activities. However, lower manufacturing output meant that jobs in that industry fell by 1,900.

Meanwhile, the number of workers laid off in the first quarter fell to 4,710 in the first quarter from 5,370 in the preceding quarter. Nevertheless, this was still the highest number of first quarter redundancies recorded since 2009.

Those who have been retrenched are also finding it more difficult to find work again. Based on CPF records, 46 per cent of residents who lost their jobs in the last quarter of 2015 had found work by March, the lowest number since June 2009.

MOM said that the decline in re-entry rates was broad-based across all age, occupational and education groups.

Also going down was the number of job vacancies, which fell from 53,900 in December 2015 to 50,000 at the end of March. This means that there were 103 openings for every 100 job seekers in March 2016, the lowest proportion in nearly four years.

MOM said that redundancies are expected to rise further in sectors affected by weak external demand due to softer economic conditions. It added that it will continue to work closely with tripartite partners to provide employment support and help displaced locals re-enter employment.

Over the whole of 2015, the overall unemployment rate for Singaporeans and residents was 2.9 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively, while a total of 15,580 workers were laid off.