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January 30, 2009

Singapore: Employment growth slows, jobless rate up
Singapore’s unemployment rate in the last quarter of 2008 rose to a seasonally adjusted 2.6 per cent, up from 2.2 per cent in the third quarter on increasing retrenchments as employment growth slows and the economy continues to weaken.

Channel News Asia quoted official data from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) released Friday, as showing about 73,100 Singapore residents were jobless in December, a steep 58 percent jump year-on-year.

For the whole of 2008, overall unemployment rate averaged 2.3 per cent (62,900 residents), up from 2.1 per cent (56,700 residents) a year ago. This is the first time the annual average unemployment rate has increased since 2003, when it peaked at 4.0 per cent.

The rising unemployment rate was driven by increasing retrenchment as companies cut back on manpower to cope with the global financial meltdown.

Preliminary estimates showed that some 7,000 workers were retrenched in the quarter ended December, up more than three-fold (1,966) from the same period a year ago.

For the entire year, 13,400 workers were retrenched, almost twice that of 7,675 in 2007, led by layoffs in the manufacturing and services sectors.

Including workers released prematurely from their contracts, redundancies totalled 16,000 for the whole of 2008.

Employment growth also dropped drastically in the fourth-quarter, with total employment up by 26,900 – slowing by more than half as compared to 62,500 in the same period in 2007.

Buoyed by higher figures in the earlier half of the year, total employment increased by 227,200 in 2008, just slightly lower than that of 234,900 in 2007.

While all sectors experienced a slowdown, the manufacturing sector was the hardest hit. Employment fell by 6,200 in the quarter ended December, its first contraction since 2003.

Bucking the trend was the construction industry, with its workforce growing strongly by 64,100 last year, up from gains of 40,400 in 2007.

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