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Layoffs on the rise but unemployment remains low

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65% of businesses polled were optimistic about hiring

The Singapore Ministry of Manpower released a report on Friday that showed the country’s employment market had grown for the sixth consecutive quarter, with low unemployment rates. However, the number of layoffs increased in Q1 2023.

The report’s advance estimates showed that the labor market continued to expand, but at a more moderated pace compared to the previous quarter. Excluding migrant domestic workers, the total employment grew by 34,500 in Q1 2023, with both resident and non-resident employment growth moderating.

Resident employment continued to surpass its pre-pandemic level as of March 2023, while non-resident employment grew above its pre-pandemic level for the first time. Most of the employment growth came from non-residents, primarily in construction, while resident employment saw the largest gains in community, social and personal services, and financial services.

Overall unemployment continued to trend downward, with a decline of 0.4% year-on-year to 1.8%. The unemployment rates for residents stood at 2.5% and for citizens at 2.7%. There were 61,500 unemployed residents in March 2023, of which 54,900 were citizens, a comparable share of citizens among unemployed residents to that of the labor force.

The ministry noted that layoffs were rising to levels that have not been seen since 2016 and 2017, primarily in manufacturing, construction, and services sectors, attributed to reorganisation, restructuring, and downturn in the industry.

Despite this, the ministry found that 65% of businesses polled were optimistic about hiring, with plans to increase headcount and raise wages.

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