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Singapore Labour Market Report - 3rd Quarter 2004


Recovery in the job market strengthened in third quarter, supported by the robust economic growth in the first half of the year. Employment saw its longest sustained period of expansion, outlasted only by the recovery from the Asian crisis.

The strong employment creation has led to a significant decline in unemployment. This coupled with a rise in job vacancies led to a marked improvement in the ratio of job openings to job seekers.
The economy added 14,100 workers in the third quarter of 2004, up from 10,900 in the second quarter. This marked the fifth consecutive quarter of gains, bringing the total number of persons employed to 2,173,800 as at September 2004.
Manufacturing employment posted accelerated gains of 8,500 (2.0%). After rising for four straight quarters, the sector has regained nearly all the losses it had suffered since 2001.
However, construction continued to shed workers (-1,700, -0.7%), but at a slower pace than before.
Employment in the services-producing industries reached a new high, adding 7,100 (0.5%) workers in the third quarter. The increase was seasonally lower than in the second quarter as temps leave the workforce after the mid-year sales and school vacation. However, the third quarter’s increase was more than double that of the same period a year ago (3,000, 0.2%).
The strong employment creation has led to a significant decline in unemployment. The seasonally adjusted overall unemployment rate fell to 3.4% in September 2004 from 4.5% three months back while the corresponding resident rate was 3.9% and 5.0%.
This improvement brought the unemployment rate to around the level in 1999 when the economy started recovering from the Asian crisis but it exceeded the pre-crisis low of around 2.0%. An estimated 62,200 residents were unemployed in September 2004. The seasonally adjusted figure was 69,700.
The substantial improvement in job prospects has reduced the pool of long term unemployed. Only 14,500 unemployed residents have been looking for work for at least six months, significantly lower than the 27,700 a year ago.
The resident long term unemployment rate in September 2004 was 0.8%, down from 1.6% a year ago, but it was still higher than the pre-Asian crisis average of 0.3% (or around 4,000).
Retrenchment has eased further amid an improving job market. 1,9671 workers were retrenched in the third quarter of 2004, a reduction of 4.3% from the previous period.
Based on CPF records, 63% of the locals retrenched in the second quarter 2004 found re-employment by September 2004 (within 6 months after retrenchment). The re-employment rate has broadly held up after the marked improvement to 64% in June from 51% in March 2004.
Private sector job openings numbered 18,9001 in September 2004, the highest in three and a half years. The rise in job openings and fall in job seekers led to a substantial improvement in the seasonally adjusted ratio of job vacancy to unemployed persons to 42p job openings for every 100 job seekers in September from 29 for every 100 in June 2004, at the aggregate level. Nevertheless, the ratio remained substantially below the more than 200 openings for every 100 job seekers registered before the Asian crisis.
The strong economic rebound has benefited workers, reducing even the pool of long term unemployed. Nevertheless, structural unemployment remains a concern as businesses continue to restructure and evolve, driven by advances in IT connectivity and rising competition. Supported by the festive boost, employment is likely to rise further in the fourth quarter.
However, the underlying growth momentum is expected to ease as the Singapore economy transits to a slower rate of growth amidst the anticipated slowdown in global IT demand and weaker growth in the world economy.
For More Information
The Manpower Research and Statistics Department has published the report on “Labour Market, Third Quarter 2004”. The 46-page report provides an update on the state of the labour market in the third quarter of 2004. The report is available online at the Ministry of Manpower’s website:
P Preliminary
1 Data pertain to private sector establishments each with at least 25 employees

Source: Ministry of Manpower Press Release 16 Dec 2004


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19 December 2004