Unemployment dips but more seniors jobless
UNEMPLOYMENT for citizens and residents fell in the first quarter of the year but this was the only bright spot amid other signs that the economy continues to weaken.
Findings from a labour report released yesterday by the Manpower Ministry showed slowing jobs growth, rising long-term unemployment and layoffs that remain high despite being in decline.
The unemployment rate fell from 3 per cent last December to 2.6 per cent this March for Singapore citizens, and from 2.9 per cent to 2.7 per cent for residents, who include both citizens and permanent residents.
An estimated 60,400 residents, including 50,800 citizens, were unemployed in March this year.
This was lower than 64,600 residents and 57,900 citizens last December.
The overall unemployment rate remained unchanged at 1.9 per cent from last December.
But more older workers found themselves out of a job. Residents aged 50 and above saw their unemployment rate go up for the fourth quarter in a row, from 1.8 per cent in March last year to 2.2 per cent.
This was offset by the decline in unemployment rate for residents younger than 30, due to a lower labour force participation rate among youth aged 15 to 24.
Credit Suisse economist Michael Wan said the recent retail slump could have prompted young workers to exit the labour force for other pursuits.
"Perhaps as more retail stores close, the need for part-time workers and younger workers to front these shops has fallen," he added.
Economists flagged the low rate of re-entry as another cause for concern, coupled with the creeping prevalence of long-term unemployment.
Of the residents who had lost their jobs in the fourth quarter of last year, 46 per cent had found work by this March, down from 57 per cent in the same period last year. It is the lowest quarterly showing since June 2009.
The long-term unemployment rate, for residents out of work for 25 weeks or more, edged up to 0.7 per cent from 0.5 per cent in March last year.
UniSIM economist Walter Theseira said he was more worried about rising long-term unemployment than aggregate unemployment.
He said: "A long-term unemployed worker may never return to their former career, or their former career path. A worker who is unemployed just for a few weeks or months could resume their career trajectory quite readily."
Jobs growth slowed in the first quarter to 13,000, down from the seasonal high of 16,100 in the previous quarter.
This was still higher than in the same period last year but that was when the market had abruptly shed 6,100 workers in its first contraction since the 2009 recession.
Redundancies fell to 4,710 from the high of 5,370 in the previous quarter but this was still the highest first-quarter layoffs since 2009.
More than half of these were in services while manufacturing and construction saw fewer jobs lost.
Meanwhile, seasonally adjusted job vacancies fell 3,900 to 50,000 from the previous quarter.