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Singapore’s Labour Market Weakens in 1Q2012

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by Donavan Lim

The Singapore labour market showed signs of weakness in the first quarter this year, as the country created lower employment opportunities and recorded slightly higher unemployment rate, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) reported Friday.

According to the “Labour Market, First Quarter 2012” report by MOM, total employment rose by 27,200 in the first three months of 2012, lower than the seasonal high increase of 37,600 in the fourth quarter and 28,300 in the first quarter of 2011.

The services sector continued to generate the most employment gains in the first quarter of 2012.

A total of 15,800 jobs were generated from services, mainly community, social & personal services (8,800) and administrative & support services (3,400).

Construction continued to register strong increase of 8,700, while manufacturing employment rose by 2,000.

There were lesser job vacancies as well in 1Q2012. There were 105 job openings for every 100 job seekers in March 2012, down from 120 per 100 in December 2011.

The number of job vacancies declined by 5.1 per cent over the year to 46,800 in March 2012. After adjusting for seasonality, job vacancies declined by 9.7 per cent over the quarter to 50,000, slightly higher than the low of 49,200 registered in September 2011.

Unemployment rose slightly over the same period for both residents and citizens.

The seasonally adjusted overall unemployment rate increased from 2.0 per cent in December 2011 to 2.1 per cent in March 2012. Similarly, the unemployment rate for residents increased from 2.9 per cent to 3.0 per cent and citizens from 3.0 per cent to 3.2per cent.

Long-term unemployment also increased. 14,000 or 0.7 per cent of the resident labour force had been looking for work for at least 25 weeks in March 2012, up 0.6 per cent or 11,800 a year ago.

Labour productivity contracted by 2.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2012, after declining by 0.5 per cent in the previous quarter.

At the same time, wage increase appeared to slow.

The nominal average (mean) monthly earnings rose slightly over the year by 0.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2012, lower than the increase of 4.0 per cent in the preceding quarter.

Adjusting for inflation, the real average (mean) monthly earnings fell over the year by 3.9 per cent in the first quarter, after declining by 1.4 per cent in the fourth quarter last year.