Labour market report shows increase in job vacancies, but unemployment up?

By SY Lee and Leong Sze Hian

The Labour Market First Quarter 2014 report has just been published by the Ministry of Manpower. The report points out in its key findings that unemployment remained low, although it edged up slightly in March 2014 and job openings continued to increase and outnumber job seekers.

Citizens’ unemployment rate increased to 3.0%?

It states that “The overall seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose from 1.8% in December 2013 to 2.0% in March 2014. Similar increases were observed for residents from 2.7% to 2.9% and citizens from 2.8% to 3.0%.

62,500 unemployed residents (seasonally adjusted)?

There were 59,300 residents, including 52,300 Singapore citizens, who were unemployed in March 2014. The seasonally adjusted figures were 62,500 for residents and 55,700 for citizens.

How much of employment growth went to Singaporeans?

Total employment grew by 28,300 in the first quarter of 2014, lower than the seasonally high increase of 40,600 in the last quarter of 2013 but broadly comparable to the 28,900 in the first quarter of 2013. This brought total employment to 3,552,200 in March 2014, which was 4.0% higher than a year ago. This year-on-year rate of growth in total employment edged down from 4.1% a quarter ago.

So how many of the 28,300 increase in jobs in the first quarter, and the 4.0% increase in total employment tear-on-year rate of growth, went to Singaporeans, PRs and foreigners?

Harder to get job after retrenchment?

The rate of re-entry into employment declined, after rising in the preceding three quarters. Based on CPF records, about half (51%) of the residents made redundant in the fourth quarter of 2013 secured employment by March 2014. This rate of re-entry within six months of redundancy was lower than the 59% experienced by the previous cohort (laid off in the third quarter of 2013) in December 2013.

Job vacancies continue to increase?

Job openings continued to increase. The seasonally adjusted job vacancies rose for the third consecutive quarter, though the rate of increase over the quarter moderated to 3.0% in March 2014 from 9.2% in December 2013 and 5.8% in September 2013. Job openings continued to outnumber job seekers, though the ratio has eased. The seasonally adjusted ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons declined from 1.43 in December 2013 to 1.33 in March 2014.

Don’t you find it rather strange that whilst job vacancies continue to rise – the unemployment rate has also risen? As well as the drop in the number of retrenched who were able to get re-employed?

Shouldn’t the unemployment rate be coming down, and the re-entry into employment rate improve, if there are really more job vacancies?