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    Apr 29, 2016

    Q1 labour data: More hired but more fired too

    A MIXED picture of the labour market emerged yesterday, with both employment growth and redundancies rising from a year ago.

    About 4,600 workers lost their jobs in the first three months of this year, higher than the 3,500 who were let go in the same period last year, according to preliminary estimates released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

    The services sector made up the majority, or 2,500, of these layoffs, while manufacturing and construction saw 1,800 and 300 layoffs respectively.

    MOM said the year-on-year increase was due to on-going business restructuring.

    "Amid the cyclical weakness, and as the economy restructures, some consolidation and exit of businesses is expected, contributing to redundancies," the ministry said in a statement yesterday. It reiterated its comments made last month following the release of full-year data for 2015, which saw the most layoffs since the 2009 global financial crisis.

    The Monetary Authority of Singapore also noted on Wednesday in its biannual macroeconomic review that low labour demand and supply could lead this year to rising unemployment, modest job creation and rising redundancies in sectors facing weak external demand and undergoing restructuring.

    Meanwhile, employment growth of 11,400 in the first quarter of the year was higher than in the same period last year, when employment contracted by 6,100.

    The growth was driven by the services sector which added 11,900 workers last quarter.

    But the manufacturing sector saw a sixth consecutive quarter of falling employment, with 2,000 fewer workers last month than in December.

    In all, the sector has shed 28,500 workers since the start of 2014.

    When compared with the historical averages seen since the global financial crisis, the first quarter employment growth is still weak, economists said.

    "It's probably not a sign of potential improvement," said Credit Suisse economist Michael Wan.

    Overall unemployment held steady in the first quarter while the unemployment rate for Singaporeans and permanent residents improved compared with the previous quarter.