Labour Market, First Quarter 2011
- The labour market tightened further, amid healthy economic growth in the first quarter of 2011. Fewer workers were laid off and unemployment improved to a three-year low. With strong manpower demand, the ratio of job openings to job seekers rose to pre-recessionary levels.
- Employment creation was fairly strong in the first quarter of 2011, though it has eased from the robust gains during the initial rebound from the 2009 recession. Total employment rose by 28,300 in the first quarter of 2011, down from the seasonal high gains of 33,900 in the fourth quarter of 2010, driven by year-end hirings for the festive season. The growth was also lower than the robust 36,500 in the first quarter of 2010, supported then by hirings arising from the Integrated Resorts and the strong job market rebound from the recession.
- Most of the gains in the first quarter of 2011 came from services (26,500). All services industries expanded their workforce, led by community, social & personal services (9,000), professional services (4,400) and wholesale & retail trade (3,400). Construction added 1,500 workers, recording an increase for the second consecutive quarter, supported by increase in public sector building activities. Manufacturing registered small gains of 100.
- The overall unemployment rate fell from a seasonally adjusted 2.2% in December 2010 to 1.9% in March 2011. The resident unemployment rate declined over the same period from a seasonally adjusted 3.1% to 2.7%. Both the overall and resident unemployment rates were the lowest in three years. An estimated 54,300 residents were unemployed in March 2011. The figure was 57,000 after adjusting for seasonality.
- Long-term unemployment also improved over the year, amid the favourable economic conditions. 11,800 or 22% of the unemployed residents in March 2011 had been looking for work for at least 25 weeks, down from 14,600 or 23% a year ago. These long-term unemployed residents made up 0.6% of the resident labour force, compared with 0.7% in March 2010.
- Redundancies declined from the preceding quarter. 2,380 workers were retrenched and 370 workers had their contracts terminated prematurely, resulting in a total of 2,750 workers made redundant in the first quarter of 2011. The overall redundancy figure fell from 3,190 in the fourth quarter of 2010, driven by declines from construction and services, while layoffs from manufacturing were comparable to the previous quarter.
- Based on CPF records, 53% of the residents laid off in the fourth quarter of 2010 secured employment by March 2011, up slightly from 51% in December 2010. The improvement in re-entry into employment over the quarter was generally observed across the board.
- Job vacancies rose substantially by 32% over the year to 49,300 in March 2011. After adjusting for seasonality, job vacancies rose by 17% over the quarter to 54,000, a new high since comparable series started in March 2006. With the substantial rise in job vacancies and lower unemployment, the seasonally adjusted ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons rose over the quarter from 104 to 139 job openings for every 100 job seekers in March 2011. This was comparable to the pre-recessionary high of 140 openings for 100 job seekers in December 2007.
- Labour turnover held steady in the first quarter of 2011. The monthly recruitment and resignation rates averaged 2.6% and 2.0% respectively, which was the same as a year ago. After adjusting for seasonality, the rates had largely stabilised since the first quarter of 2010, after increasing from the recessionary-low in the second quarter of 2009.
- Growth in labour productivity moderated. Labour productivity growth over the year was 4.5% in the first quarter of 2011 compared to 7.8% in the previous quarter, as output growth eased from the initial strong cyclical rebound.
- Nominal average monthly earnings rose by 8.5% over the year in the first quarter of 2011, accelerating from the growth in the preceding four quarters. Factoring in inflation, real average monthly earnings rose by 3.2%. This was slightly lower than the growth of 3.4% in the previous quarter, but was still higher than the 2.1% to 2.8% in the first three quarters of 2010.
- Reflecting emerging cost pressures, the unit labour cost (ULC) for the whole economy edged up for the third straight quarter, after declining significantly in the preceding four quarters. The increase of 2.3% in the first quarter of 2011 was higher than the 1.8% in the previous quarter but lower than the 2.8% in the third quarter of 2010.
- In summary, reflecting an increasingly tight labour market, the unemployment rate and the ratio of job vacancies to job seekers have approached pre-recessionary levels. Cost pressures on businesses have emerged, amid a moderation in labour productivity growth.
For More Information
- The report is available online on the Ministry of Manpower’s Statistics & Publications Page.