Unemployment rate rises, lay-offs at 7-year high

THE labour market is showing more signs of strain, as unemployment climbed in the second quarter of the year and lay-offs hit a seven-year high.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Singaporeans and permanent residents combined was 3 per cent last month, up from 2.7 per cent in March and the highest since the end of 2010.

Figures released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) yesterday also showed the unemployment rate for Singaporeans rose to 3.1 per cent last month, from 2.6 per cent in March.

An estimated 68,300 residents - of whom 60,300 are citizens - were out of work last month.

Overall, unemployment was at 2.1 per cent last month.

This is higher than the 1.9 per cent three months earlier but below the 3.3 per cent after the global financial crisis in 2009.

"It looks like the uncertain global and regional outlook has taken its toll on Singapore, at the same time as economic restructuring is taking place," said labour MP Patrick Tay, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower.

Lay-offs have gone up.

About 5,500 workers were laid off in the second quarter - a nearly 70 per cent increase compared with the same quarter last year.

The redundancies were largely in the services sector, where 3,400 workers lost their jobs.

Mr Tay said he is worried about mature professionals, managers and executives who usually take longer to bounce back after becoming unemployed.

DBS economist Irvin Seah said there is a risk that the full year's numbers could eclipse last year's high of 15,580, which was the highest since the global financial crisis, as there have already been 10,210 lay-offs in the first half of this year.

"Unemployment could continue to climb and there could be a broader impact on consumer spending such as car and home purchases and retail businesses," he added.

However, there continue to be some opportunities.

The number of people in jobs here still grew in the second quarter of the year.

There were 5,500 more workers employed last month than in March, bringing total employment to 3,674,700.

But the growth was slower than in the first quarter amid "subdued global economic conditions", said MOM in its report.

Construction added just 400 workers while services added 8,600.

The manufacturing sector continued to shed workers for the seventh quarter in a row, with 3,400 fewer people employed last month than in March.

Mr Seah said this could be a result of greater automation.


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