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Labour Market Advance Release 2018


  1. The labour market improved in 2018.  Total employment as well as local employment grew.  Annual average unemployment rates were lower than a year ago and retrenchments were significantly fewer.
  2. However, labour market trends in 4Q 2018 were mixed.  The number of layoffs was similar to the preceding quarter, and lower than a year ago.  Total employment continued to grow, although at a more moderate pace.  There was a slight uptick in the unemployment rates compared to the previous quarter and the same period a year ago.  These are the key preliminary findings from the "Labour Market Advance Release 2018" report released by the Manpower Research and Statistics Department, Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

    Main Findings

    Local employment growth in 2018 was more than double that of foreigners

  3. Total employment (excluding Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW)) increased by 15,600 in the fourth quarter of 2018, slightly lower than the preceding quarter (16,700).  The increase was due to employment growth in Services, primarily from seasonal hiring.  Manufacturing employment decreased over the quarter, while Construction employment was unchanged.
  4. Total employment (excluding FDW) grew by 39,300 in 2018.  The growth among locals (28,400) was more than double that of foreigners (excluding FDW: 10,900), with local increases in Services industries such as Community, Social & Personal Services, Transportation & Storage, Financial & Insurance Services, Information & Communications, and Professional Services. 

    Unemployment rates rose slightly over the quarter

  5. Overall unemployment rate rose slightly over the quarter from 2.1% in September 2018 to 2.2% in December 2018.  It rose from 2.9% to 3.0% for residents and 3.0% to 3.1% for citizens, after holding steady in the previous quarter.  However, the average unemployment rates for the whole of 2018 (average of 4 quarters) were lower than 2017.

    Retrenchments in 2018 were significantly lower than a year ago
  6. Retrenchments in the fourth quarter of 2018 (2,800) were similar to the third quarter (2,860), and lower than a year ago (3,680).  Taking stock for the full year, the number of layoffs in 2018 (11,020) was significantly lower than in 2017 (14,720), as the economy continued to expand in 2018.1  Retrenchments declined across the three broad sectors (Construction, Manufacturing and Services) over the year.

    Higher income growth at the median for Singaporeans
  7. Singaporean workers continued to earn higher incomes in the recent five years.  The real median income (including employer CPF contributions) of full-time employed Singaporeans increased by 3.6% p.a. from 2013 to 2018, significantly higher than the 1.7% p.a. in the previous five years.  Over the last five years from 2013 to 2018, real income at the 20th percentile2 grew faster (4.3% p.a.) than at the median (3.6% p.a.), narrowing their gap with the median worker.3



  8. Overall, the labour market improved for most of 2018.  However, labour market trends were mixed in the last quarter, with unemployment rates rising slightly.
  9. Moving forward, local workforce growth will remain modest due to the underlying demographics of an aging population and low birth rates.  Job opportunities continue to be available in sectors such as Information & Communications, Financial & Insurance Services, Healthcare, Professional Services, Wholesale Trade, and Built Environment in the near term.  As economic growth moderates, workers and businesses need to remain agile and responsive to economic restructuring and the evolving employment landscape. 
  10. MOM and Workforce Singapore (WSG) will continue to press on with tripartite partners to support Singaporeans to take up good jobs and careers through the Adapt and Grow initiative.  Jobseekers can tap on the Career Matching Services available at WSG’s Careers Connect and NTUC-e2i’s career centres. Workers should keep upskilling to build career resilience and open new career opportunities.  Businesses are encouraged to transform and grow, with support available through the Lean Enterprise Development Scheme and the Capability Transfer Programme.

    For More Information
  11. The “Labour Market Report, Third Quarter 2018” is released by the Manpower Research and Statistics Department, Ministry of Manpower. The report and technical notes on the various indicators are available at