Singapore’s unemployment continued to show signs of recovery, as the seasonally-adjusted rate eased by 0.1% points in March.

This brought the republic’s overall unemployment rate to 2.9% in March, lower than the 3.0% recorded in February. This was revealed in the preliminary numbers released in the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) Labour Market Report on Apr 28.

Unemployment among both residents and citizens had inched down, with that for residents hitting 4.0% in March, from 4.1% in February. Meanwhile, the rate for Singaporeans came in at 4.2%, down from 4.3% in February.

While unemployment rates have been falling steadily over the last two quarters, they are still “elevated compared to pre-Covid-19 rates”, MOM highlights.

For comparison, the unemployment rates for Singaporeans and residents were 3.3% and 3.2% respectively in 2019 – before the pandemic had hit.

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Total employment (excluding migrant domestic workers) too, has been showing signs of improvement, with its 4,800 expansion in 1Q2021. This marks the metric’s first quarterly expansion after four quarters of decline, notes MOM.

Growth in resident employment had outpaced the decline in non-resident employment, the authority adds. 

The increase was heralded by the services sector as industries such as information & communications, financial services and professional services, saw stronger recruitment.

SEE:Nearly half of job vacancies in 2020 were newly created positions: MOM

The construction sector too saw a slight rebound in employment levels in 1Q2021, following sustained contractions in the preceding quarters.

Conversely, employment in the manufacturing sector continued to contract in 1Q2021, albeit at a smaller pace.

Aside from employment, retrenchments for quarter improved with a decline of 2,100. MOM estimates that incidence of retrenchment will decline – from 2.8 retrenched persons per 1,000 employees in 4Q2020, to 1.1 in 1Q2021.

Even as retrenchments have fallen to levels seen in 2018 and 2019, the ongoing restructuring and re-organisation by several companies could still result in pockets of job displacement, MOM cautions.

The preliminary data for 1Q2021 indicates that the labour market is not yet fully back to pre-Covid-19 levels, the authority notes. Still it says the pickup in employment has been “encouraging”.

Going forward, MOM expects hiring to remain subdued in sectors such as construction and hospitality which are feeling the strain of travel and entry restrictions.  

To see through reskilling and local hiring initiatives, companies can tap on government schemes such as the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) which is available till September.

Under this, employers hiring eligible locals can receive up to $15,000 per hire while those hiring mature workers, persons with disabilities, and ex-offenders can receive up to $54,000 per hire.