Jobseekers’ woes may well continue into the last quarter of the year, as the hiring pace in Singapore is expected to stay muted. This was reflected in the results of the Employment Outlook Survey released by global recruitment firm ManpowerGroup, on September 8.

Of the 462 employers interviewed, 10% are looking at a decrease in payrolls next year. 7% are looking at an increase while 73% expect things to remain at status quo. This translates to a net employment outlook of -3% for 4Q20 – a 25 percentage point improvement from sentiment for the ongoing 3Q20.

Still, the sentiment is 8 percentage points weaker than the net employment outlook of +5% registered a year ago. This reflects the impact of the Covid-19 health-turned-economic crisis on the local labour market, ManpowerGroup observes.

The respondents expect hiring activity to gradually recover to pre-Covid levels, with 26% anticipating a turnaround in the next 10 to 12 months. 22% expect this recovery to come within the next three months, while 19% are looking at a four- to nine-month timeframe. Meanwhile, 16% estimate that it will take over a year for a recovery to take place.

“While there continues to be a strong demand of IT and digital talents due to accelerating

digitalization, companies are also leveraging on the subsidies provided under the SGUnited

Traineeships Program to hire talents for various business functions,” observes Linda Teo, Country Manager of ManpowerGroup Singapore.

The employers surveyed come from different sectors, such as finance, insurance and real estate, manufacturing, mining and construction, public administration and education, services, transportation and utilities as well as wholesale retail and trade.

Employment levels are looking up in four of the seven sectors, with the net employment outlook for transportation and utilities coming in the highest at +5%. Finance, insurance and real estate followed suit with a net employment outlook of +3% while the outlook for both mining and construction and public administration and education were at +1%.

Meanwhile, hiring sentiment was gloomy in manufacturing (-12%), wholesale and retail trade (-7%) and services (-1%), as the performance of these sectors is heavily dependent on economic activity abroad.

Still, ManpowerGroup reports that compared to 3Q20 – hiring sentiment has improved in six of the seven sectors. Of this, employers in the mining and construction reported the sharpest increase of 58 percentage points, following an easing of lockdowns and movement control restrictions globally.

The public administration and education sector was the only one to record weaker sentiment, with net employment outlook declining by 7 percentage points.

Even so, Teo expects hiring to pick up as companies find “locals to fill jobs left vacant by Malaysians unable to return to work due to travel restrictions”.

Based on company size, small businesses – companies with 10-49 employees – recorded the most resilient outlook of -2%. The outlook for medium businesses – companies with 50 to 249 staff –was at -5%, while that for micro-sized employers, with less than 10 employees, stood at -3%.

At -10%, the outlook for large businesses – organisations which have over 250 employees – was the poorest.

The latest results show Singapore’s job market prospects are moderate relative to the six other Asia Pacific markets surveyed. With a net employment outlook of -2%, Hong Kong was the only other country to record poor hiring sentiment.

Meanwhile, Taiwan and Japan took the lead with employers logging net employment outlooks of +20% and +9%. India (+3%) China (+4%) and Australia (+1%) too recorded positive outlooks.

Aside from Asia-Pacific, countries from the Americas and Europe, Middle East and Africa are mixed in their hiring outlook for the upcoming quarter. Specifically, the US is looking at a hiring outlook of +14% while the UK expects -8%.