Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower said the country’s labour market improved in 2017, in line with the pick-up in economic activity. While the resident long-term unemployment rate held steady in December 2017, the unemployment rate declined from a year before. The Ministry said local employment growth in 2017 was nearly double that of 2016, while foreign employment declined more than it did the year before. There were also significantly fewer retrenchments and more job vacancies. At the same time, productivity growth was more than double that of 2016.

Review of 2017 Employment
The resident unemployment rate declined over the year, while long-term unemployment rate remained unchanged. From a high of 3.2% in December 2016, the seasonally-adjusted resident unemployment rate declined over the course of 2017 to 3.0% in December 2017. The decline was across all education groups, except for degree holders. At the same time, the seasonally adjusted resident long-term unemployment rate remained at 0.8%, unchanged from a year before.

Local employment growth nearly doubled that of 2016 3. Local employment grew by 21,300 in 2017, nearly double the growth in 2016 (11,200). Growth occurred mainly in the Financial & Insurance Services, Information & Communications, Professional Services, and Healthcare sectors, which have relatively higher shares of Professionals, Managers, Executives & Technicians (PMETs) occupations. Foreign employment continued to contract, with a larger decline in 2017.

Foreign employment (excluding FDW) declined by 32,000 in 2017, compared to the slight contraction in 2016 (-2,500). The decline was mainly due to a decrease in Work Permit Holders (-32,200) in sectors such as Marine Shipyard and Construction.

On the whole, total employment (excluding FDW) declined by 10,700 in 2017. With local employment growth and foreign employment contraction in 2017, the local share of total employment (excluding FDW) rose from 66.4% in December 2016 to 67.2% in December 2017.

Retrenchments and Job Vacancies
Retrenchments were significantly lower in 2017, and the resident six-month re-entry rate remained stable. Retrenchments declined to 14,720 in 2017, significantly lower than that in 2016 (19,170) but higher than in earlier part of the decade when retrenchments averaged about 12,000 between 2011 and 2015. The main reason for retrenchments in 2017 continued to be business restructuring and reorganisation. Residents remained proportionately less affected, with their share of redundancies (61.9%) remaining lower than their share of employment (67.2%).

Ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons improved for the fourth consecutive quarter. The seasonally-adjusted job vacancies to unemployed ratio improved for the fourth consecutive quarter to 0.92 in December 2017. There were also more job vacancies in December 2017 (49,700), higher than a year before (December 2016: 47,400).