SINGAPORE – Retrenchments rose in the first quarter of the year, driven by manufacturing losses and hitting mainly production and related workers from electronics, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Thursday (June 13).

The number of retrenched employees stood at 3,230, up from 2,510 in the previous quarter and also higher than a year ago, the MOM said in its labour market report.

Retrenchments in electronics made up 18 per cent of the number, followed by services industries such as wholesale trade, as well as transportation and storage.

“While restructuring and reorganisation remained the main reason cited by establishments for retrenchments, there was a rise in the share of retrenchments from the previous quarter due to high costs and the downturn in the industry,” said the MOM.

It added that among retrenched residents, professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) continued to make up the majority at 69 per cent. This is because they form a higher share of the workforce and were more prone to retrenchments, the MOM added.

Total employment continued to grow by 10,700 excluding foreign domestic workers, driven by the services sector, and higher than a year ago.

But employment dipped in manufacturing for the second consecutive quarter, led by cutbacks in electronics. The electronics cluster posted its largest employment contraction in six years.

“Services was the main driver of total employment growth, while construction posted its first employment gain in three years, reflecting an increase in both public and private sector construction activities,” said the MOM.

But it added: “The tightness in the labour market may ease, as job vacancies declined for the first time in two years and retrenchments rose in this quarter.”

In April, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said in its macroeconomic review that trade-related sectors’ contribution to the economy is expected to recede, with modern services instead to be the key driver of growth.

This comes as Singapore saw its slowest quarter growth in nearly a decade in the first quarter, at 1.2 per cent, amid global uncertainties.

On Thursday, the MOM said that after seven preceding quarters of increases, the demand for labour eased, with fewer seasonally adjusted job vacancies. There were 57,100 in March, down from 62,300 in December last year.

The seasonally adjusted resident long-term unemployment rate declined from 0.8 per cent in December 2018 to 0.7 per cent in March as well.

Long-term unemployment looks at people aged 15 and above who have been unemployed for 25 weeks or more.

The long-term unemployment rate fell or held steady except for residents aged below 30, for whom this rose from 0.5 per cent to 0.9 per cent over the quarter, after trending down from December 2017.

“As a larger proportion of the job seekers aged below 30 had left previous employment due to job dissatisfaction, they are more likely to invest the time to search for a better job match,” said the MOM.

There also continued to be more vacancies than job seekers, although the seasonally adjusted ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons dipped slightly from 1.10 in December 2018 to 1.08 in March.

The six-month re-entry rate among retrenched residents rose for the second consecutive quarter to 66 per cent in the first three months of the year.