SINGAPORE - Total employment in Singapore saw the biggest quarterly fall on record between April and June, while unemployment and retrenchments rose sharply, as the Covid-19 pandemic took a toll on the labour market.
The number of workers here, excluding foreign domestic workers, plunged by 121,800 in the second quarter, according to preliminary data released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Wednesday (July 29).
This is more than four times the fall in the first quarter and means that the economy has shed 147,500 workers in the first half of the year.
Retrenchments more than doubled in the second quarter, with 6,700 workers laid off, up from 3,220 in the first quarter.
This was higher than the peak of 5,510 during the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak, but lower than the 2009 global financial crisis high of 12,760, said the ministry.
Layoffs rose significantly last quarter in wholesale trade and transport equipment due to lower demand for retail and air travel, MOM said.
The number of unemployed Singaporeans climbed to 79,600 in June 2020. Together with permanent residents, there were a total of 90,500 unemployed residents in June, up from 76,200 in March.
As a result, the unemployment rate for Singaporeans rose to 4 per cent in June, up from 3.5 per cent in March, after taking into account seasonal variations.
The rate for residents rose to 3.9 per cent, from 3.3 per cent, and the overall rate rose to 2.9 per cent, up from 2.4 per cent.
Still, unemployment remained lower than previous recessionary peaks during the global financial crisis and the Sars outbreak, said MOM.
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo told the press at a briefing on Wednesday that the contraction in employment was "quite reflective of the workforce composition" in terms of the spread between local and foreign workers, but added that the exact breakdown is not yet available.
Within the services sector, the contraction in employment was sharpest in food and beverage services; retail trade; arts, entertainment and recreation; and education. Construction also saw a steep drop in employment while manufacturing saw a more modest decline.
To help job seekers, Workforce Singapore is stepping up efforts to make services more accessible, said the statutory board's chief executive Tan Choon Shian.
The SGUnited Jobs and Skills Centres being set up around the island provide career advice and job matching services and have helped 1,300 job seekers since the first batch of eight centres started operating on July 1, said Mr Tan at the briefing, which was held at one of the centres at Kampong Chai Chee Community Club.
Eight more centres will be ready on Saturday (Aug 1), with the remaining eight to be set up by Aug 15 so that all 24 Housing Board towns have a centre.
The agency is also holding virtual career fairs online, setting up SGUnited Jobs and Skills information kiosks in areas with high footfall - the next will be at Elias Mall in Pasir Ris on July 31 - and sending out its roving career centre truck.