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Jobless rate at 7-year high in Singapore

by April 28, 2017 General

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s overall jobless rate hit a seven-year high in the first quarter, while employment saw the biggest fall in nearly 14 years, underscoring weakness in sectors of the city-state’s domestic economy.

The unemployment rate rose to 2.3% in the first quarter from 2.2% in the quarter before, hitting a level last seen in the fourth quarter of 2009, preliminary data from the Manpower Ministry showed.

Total employment fell by 8,500, the biggest quarterly contraction since the second quarter of 2003, when employment shrank by 26,000.

“Historically, we see this kind of (total employment) figures only when we had been in a recession, so these numbers are a bit concerning,” said Vaninder Singh, an economist for NatWest Markets.

One concern is that the softening in labour market conditions may be weighing on household spending, a point that Singapore’s central bank touched upon in its half-yearly assessment of macro economic conditions released on Thursday.

“Consumers in Singapore are generally cutting back on discretionary expenditure, possibly because of softer labour demand. Underlying demand-driven price pressures will, therefore, likely be subdued for some time, until the labour market strengthens,” the MAS said.

In the fourth quarter of last year, private consumption expenditure had contracted nearly 2.3% from a year earlier, the first year-on-year decline since the second quarter of 2009, even as gross domestic product grew 2.9% from a year earlier.

“We have this very sharp dichotomy at the moment.

“Your external sectors are doing okay but the domestic sectors have not been doing very well and within that, if you look at even within the external sectors, only certain clusters within the manufacturing sector have done well and these sectors have been shedding jobs,” Singh said. “It doesn’t paint a strong or robust growth”. —Reuters