Despite?economic headwinds, 2019 saw higher employment growth, retrenchments remaining low and a slight rise in the re-entry rate, revealed a new report by the Ministry of Manpower.

The?Labour Market 2019 report released yesterday found that employment grew by?57,000 in 2019, significantly higher than in?2018 (38,300).

Local employment growth continued to track total employment growth closely. The majority of the increase in employment was in community, social & personal services, professional services, financial & insurance services and information & communications.

Retrenchments?stayed low in 2019 (10,690), similar to levels in 2018 (10,730). While the rate of re-entry into employment among retrenched locals rose slightly to 64% in 2019 from?63% in 2018.

Meanwhile, even though unemployment rates remained?in the relatively low range of recent years, a slight increase was observed (overall: from 2.1% to 2.3%, residents: from 2.9% to 3.1%, citizens: from 3.0% to 3.3%).

Commenting on the report, Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo said in a LinkedIn article that while the labour market was better than expected in 2019, "for 2020, given the COVID-19 outbreak, the outlook has become very uncertain. It would be unrealistic to expect employment growth to keep pace with the last few years. It will also be a challenge to keep unemployment at the low levels of recent years."

She added" Our immediate priority is to prevent large-scale job losses. This is not a shift away from the need to promote job and wage growth in the medium to longer term. But for the next few months, the focus must be to keep as many people as possible in jobs."

Other key points to note for the year of 2019 are:

  • The resident long-term unemployment rate was held steady at 0.7%.
  • Recruitment rate declined in 2019 (from 2.3% to 2.2%), while the resignation rate was 1.8%, unchanged for four years.
  • The annual total weekly paid hours worked fell further to 44.7 hours in 2019, continuing its downtrend from 2013.
While the year rounded off well, trends were mixed in the fourth quarter of 2019 (Q4 2019). While unemployment rates remained unchanged and re-entry rates improved, retrenchments were slightly higher in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Q4 2019 saw a slower pace of employment growth - a more moderated pace of 18,300, compared to 14,700 in the fourth quarter of 2018, and the third quarter of 2019 (21,700).

Unemployment rates remained?unchanged after inching up in previous quarters, (overall: 2.3%; residents: 3.2%; citizens: 3.3%), but the?resident long-term unemployment rate inched up (from 0.8% to 0.9%).

There were slightly more retrenchments than the third quarter of 2019 (from 2,470 to 2,670). But the re-entry rate improved to 66%.

The job vacancies to unemployed persons ratio held steady at 0.84, after trending down in previous quarters.

Other key points to note for Q4 2019 are:

  • The total weekly paid hours worked per employee was unchanged over the quarter in December 2019 (44.7 hours).
  • Comparing December-on-December, there were more pronounced declines in the total weekly paid hours worked?in 2019 for professional services (mainly architectural & engineering services) and administrative & support services (mainly security & investigation and cleaning & landscaping). On the other hand, workers in financial & insurance services and wholesale trade saw larger increases in paid hours over the year.
  • Both recruitment (from 2.3% to 2.1%) and resignation ( from1.8% to 1.7%) rates were lower in the fourth quarter of 2019 compared to the previous quarter.
  • Compared to the same period a year ago, labour turnover fell across most industries, particularly in financial services and real estate services. Accommodation and security & investigation were the exceptions as both recruitment and resignation rates rose over the year.

Lead image and infographic / Ministry of Manpower, Manpower Research and Statistics Department?