SINGAPORE (Sept 12): Singapore’s 4Q net employment outlook has jumped to +11% after seasonal variations have been taken into account, according to the latest ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey (MEOS).

This represents the strongest outlook in two years, being up 7 and 4 percentage points q-o-q and y-o-y respectively, says ManpowerGroup in a press release on Tuesday.

The survey, which was conducted by the recruitment agency among 700 employers, reflected that 16% of all participants expect to increase their staffing levels over the next three months, while 5% forecast a reduction and 74% anticipate no change to their headcount.

Staffing levels are anticipated to climb in six of the seven industry sectors in 4Q, with the strongest outlook for the Public Administration & Education sector where employers reported a net employment outlook of +22%, 20 percentage points (ppt) stronger than the last quarter.

The Services sector as well as the Transportation & Utilities sector have also seen the strongest outlooks in over two years with +18% and +17%, respectively.

ManpowerGroup attributes the higher employment outlook for the Services sector to an expected surge in demand for IT specialists as more companies go digital, while Singapore’s Smart Nation project is expected to drive demand for data scientists, software engineers and cyber security specialists.

Meanwhile, Finance, Insurance & Real Estate sector employers report a hiring growth outlook of +8%, while the Wholesale & Retail Trade as well as Manufacturing sectors’ stand at +7% and +3%, respectively.

An exception is the Mining & Construction sector, which has reflected uncertain hiring plans with an outlook of -1%. This represents the weakest hiring outlook in more than eight years, which ManpowerGroup says nonetheless remains “relatively stable” on a y-o-y basis.

Linda Teo, country manager of ManpowerGroup Singapore, says the rise in net employment outlook may be attributable to Singapore’s recently economic growth where GDP increased by 2.7% in 1H17 – which in turn, may have boosted employer confidence.

“Although there’s a renewed confidence amongst employers, many remain wary and are adopting the wait-and-see mentality amidst worries that trade numbers could weaken and domestic demand may stall despite the potential pickup in trade,” she adds. 

ManpowerGroup expects payrolls to grow in all of the eight countries and territories it surveyed in Asia Pacific from Oct-Dec 2017.

In comparison to the previous quarter, hiring prospects have improved in five countries and territories surveyed, including Singapore, but have declined in two with the weakest outlook reported in China.

The next MEOS will be released on Dec 12 this year, and will detail expected labour market activity for 1Q18.