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Labour Market, Third Quarter 2007

Unemployment fell to pre-Asian crisis level

Amid the buoyant economic performance, employment creation remained strong in the third quarter. The robust job creation, coupled with an easing in the growth of resident manpower supply led to a decline in unemployment rate to the pre-Asian crisis level. Wages continued to rise in the quarter but at a more moderate pace.

2.   Total employment expanded by 58,600 in Q3 07, up substantially from the increase of 43,000 in Q3 06, making it the second highest quarterly increase after the 64,400 recorded in Q2 07. Cumulatively, 172,400 jobs were added in the first three quarters of 2007, comparable to the gains of 176,000 for the whole of 2006.

3.   Amid rapid economic growth and easing in the increase in resident labour supply1, the seasonally adjusted overall unemployment rate declined to 1.7% in Sep 07 from 2.3% in Jun 07. The resident unemployment rate also fell significantly to 2.3% from 3.1% over the same period. Both unemployment rates are the lowest recorded in almost a decade, having improved to pre-Asian crisis levels. An estimated 40,300 residents were unemployed in Sep 07. The seasonally adjusted figure was 45,400.

4.   The number of long-term unemployed residents who had been looking for work for 25 weeks or more also dropped to a ten-year low (for September periods). There were 8,500 long-term unemployed in Sep 07, forming 21% of the unemployed residents as compared to 12,300 or 20% a year ago. The share of long-term unemployed residents in relation to the resident labour force was 0.4%, down from 0.7% a year ago.

5.   1,827 workers were retrenched in Q3 07, an improvement from 2,472 in Q3 06 and 1,918 in Q2 072. This brings the total number retrenched in the first nine months of 2007 to 5,709, much lower than 9,388 in the same period last year. CPF records revealed that 62% of residents retrenched by private sector establishments each with at least 25 employees in Q2 07 were re-employed by Sep 07 (i.e. within six months after retrenchment). This was lower than 70% in Jun 07 and 74% in Sep 06.


6.   Reflecting the strong business conditions, 35,500 jobs were unfilled in Sep 072, more than 29,900 in Sep 06 and just below the post-Asian crisis peak of 37,400 in Jun 07. Overall, the unfilled posts (i.e. job vacancies) represented 2.4% of total manpower demand in Sep 07, up from 2.2% a year ago. The manpower shortfall was larger for Professional, Managers, Executives & Technicians (PMETs) and clerical, sales & service workers as their vacancy rates at 2.7% each was substantially higher than for production operators, cleaners & labourers at 1.8%. Across sectors, services (2.8%) posted above-average vacancy rate, compared to below-average rates for manufacturing (1.8%) and construction (1.4%).

7.   Wage growth (year-on-year) moderated in Q3 07, after accelerating for three consecutive quarters. Average (mean) monthly earnings based on CPF records rose by 6.9% over the year in Q3 07, down from 8.5% increase in Q2 07. After adjusting for inflation, the real earnings growth moderated to 4.0% in Q3 07 from 7.5% in Q2 07.

8.   Overall labour productivity was flat in Q3 07, following a marginal 0.4% gain in the preceding quarter. This led to an increase in the overall unit labour cost (ULC) by 5.9%, slightly lower than the 6.3% growth in the previous quarter.

9.   In summary, the labour market turned in another quarter of strong performance. Robust employment creation and slower growth in resident manpower supply, led to an improvement in unemployment rate to the pre-Asian crisis level. Amid manpower shortages, wages have continued to rise, but at a more moderate pace.

For More Information
The report is available online on the Ministry of Manpower's website.

1The resident labour supply is estimated to have increased by 15,200 during the two quarters from Apr to Sep 07.  This is lower than the average increase of 34,900 during the same period in 2005 to 2006 but more than the 7,600 in the earlier years of 2001 to 2004.

2Data pertain to private sector establishments (each with at least 25 employees) and the public sector.