SINGAPORE — Advance estimates of Singapore’s labour market released by the Manpower Ministry (MOM) on Tuesday (31 Jan) show that in 4Q 2022, total employment expanded for the fifth consecutive quarter, and unemployment rates remained low, below pre-pandemic levels. While the number of retrenchments rose from previous quarters’ lows, it remained comparable to pre-pandemic levels.

For the whole of 2022, the labour market improved significantly compared to 2021.

Unemployment rates have returned to pre-pandemic levels, and total employment surpassed the level in 2019. While the number of retrenchments increased in 4Q 2022.

Total employment (excluding Migrant Domestic Workers) rose for the fifth consecutive quarter, expanding by 47,400 in 4Q 2022. While non-resident employment growth still contributed to most of the increase, it has moderated from the highs of the last two quarters, as the non-resident employment level approaches that of 2019.

The increase in non-resident employment in 4Q 2022 was concentrated in Construction. Resident employment picked up over the quarter, amid hiring for year-end festivities in consumer-facing sectors such as Food & Beverage Services and Retail Trade. However, MOM did not break down the 4Q 2022 employment growth into resident and non-resident, which it did for its Q3 2022 report.

After the substantial decline during the peak of the pandemic in 2020, total employment grew by an unprecedented 231,700 in 2022, and surpassed its pre-pandemic level by 3.0 per cent.

This is said to be largely driven by non-residents, following the relaxation of border controls in April 2022 and the backfilling of vacancies, especially in sectors such as Construction that are more reliant on foreign manpower. Resident employment also continued to grow, albeit at a slower pace than in 2021, as resident unemployment rates improved.

There is also no breakdown of the employment growth for the whole year of 2022, while the breakdown was provided for the Labour Advance Release reports of 2019 and 2017.

Unemployment rates remained low in December 2022 (overall: 2.0%; resident: 2.8%; citizen: 3.0%), below pre-pandemic levels.

The tight labour market and economic recovery in 2022 have led to continued improvements in the unemployment situation, to its pre-pandemic steady state.

The annual average unemployment rates were significantly lower in 2022 compared to 2021 (overall: 2.1 per cent vs. 2.7 per cent; resident: 2.9 per cent vs. 3.5 per cent; citizen: 3.0 per cent vs. 3.7 per cent).

Among the eight occupational categories in 2022, clerical support workers had the highest unemployment rate of 5.9 per cent.

The number of retrenchments rose in 4Q 2022 to 3,000 from the lows of the previous three quarters (800 – 1,300). The increase mainly reflected higher retrenchments in Electronics (within Manufacturing), and Information Technology and Wholesale Trade (within Services). Retrenchments in other sectors were stable. Business reorganisation or restructuring was the top reason for retrenchments in 4Q 2022.

Despite the recent rise, the number of retrenchments in 4Q 2022 remained within the quarterly range observed in 2019. The total number of retrenchments for the whole of 2022 (6,450) was lower than 2021 (8,020) and pre-pandemic levels.

MOM is said to be closely monitoring the situation amid the weakening global economic outlook.

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