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Labour Market Advance Release 2019


  1. Preliminary estimates released by the Manpower Research and Statistics Department, Ministry of Manpower show that total employment (excluding Foreign Domestic Workers or FDW) continued to grow in 4Q 2019, as well as for the full year 2019.Local employment growth in 2019 matched the heightened levels in 2018 and was mainly in the Services industries1. Foreign employment growth was largely driven by a recovery of the Construction sector.
  2. The number of retrenchments in 2019 stayed at the same level as in 2018. Unemployment rates held steady in December 2019. However, the annual average unemployment rates in 2019 were higher than in 2018.

    Main Findings2

    Total employment continued to grow in 2019; local employment grew in tandem with total employment
  3. Total employment (excluding FDW) grew by 16,600 in 4Q 2019, lower than 3Q 2019 (21,700) but higher than a year ago (14,700).
  4. With steady growth in each quarter of 2019, total employment (excluding FDW) grew by 55,200 for the whole year.
  5. Similar to the past two decades, local employment grew in tandem with total employment.3 Local employment growth in 2019 (26,500) was similar to 2018 (27,400).About half of foreign employment growth (excluding FDW) was due to an increase in work permit holders for Construction alone. Excluding Construction and FDW, foreign employment growth in 2019 (14,900) was slightly lower than foreign employment growth in 2018 (16,300).
  6. In 2019, local employment expanded in Services industries (such as community, social & personal services, professional services and information & communications), but contracted in industries such as Manufacturing and wholesale trade, which were affected by the softer economic conditions.

    Number of retrenchments in 2019 remained low and similar to 2018
  7. Retrenchments were slightly higher in 4Q 2019 (2,700) compared to 3Q 2019 (2,470) and 4Q 2018 (2,510).4
  8. For the full year, retrenchments in 2019 (10,700) remained at the same level as in 2018 (10,730). Retrenchments were higher in Manufacturing and Services, but lower in Construction.

    Unemployment rates held steady in latest quarter, although full year rates were higher than in 2018
  9. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rates held steady in December 2019 (overall: 2.3%; resident: 3.2%; citizen: 3.3%) after trending up in previous quarters.
  10. As quarterly unemployment rates in 2019 were consistently higher than in 2018, the annual average5 unemployment rates in 2019 were higher than in 2018 (overall: from 2.1% to 2.3%; resident: from 2.9% to 3.2%; citizen: from 3.0% to 3.3%).

    Singaporeans continued to earn higher incomes in the recent five years
  11. The real6 median income (including employer CPF contributions) of full-time employed Singaporeans increased by 3.9% per annum (p.a.) from 2014 to 2019, significantly higher than the 2.1% p.a. in the previous five years. Over the last five years from 2014 to 2019, the real income growth at the 20th percentile7 rose by 4.6% p.a., higher than the 3.9% p.a. at the median. This was helped by initiatives to raise the income of low-wage workers in recent years8. As a result, their income gap with the median worker9 narrowed.

  12. Notwithstanding economic headwinds in the course of the year and uncertainties that remain ahead, employment increased, particularly in Services industries, and retrenchments remained low in 2019.Local employment continued to grow in tandem with total employment.Although unemployment rates were higher in 2019 compared to 2018, they held steady in the latest quarter after trending upwards in previous quarters.
  13. MOM and Workforce Singapore (WSG), together with tripartite partners, have stepped up efforts to support those who are unemployed to reskill for new jobs under the Adapt & Grow (A&G) initiative, and will continue to help Singaporeans overcome skills mismatches. WSG offers over 100 Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) in more than 30 sectors with training and salary support provided and Place-and-Train Programmes under the A&G initiative. Jobseekers can also consider taking up Attach-and-Train PCPs, which train workers ahead of hiring demand, in selected sectors with strong growth potential. We encourage jobseekers to be open to opportunities in other sectors and occupations beyond what they are familiar with, and upskill to meet changing hiring demands. Jobseekers who need employment assistance can visit WSG’s Careers Connect and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute’s career centres.
  14. We also encourage employers to tap on A&G programmes to support their hiring needs as they undergo business transformation. In addition to PCPs, employers can use the Career Support Programme (CSP) and Career Trial (CT) to access a wider pool of Singaporean jobseekers. CSP provides salary support for employers who hire long-term unemployed jobseekers or mature retrenched jobseekers in PMET jobs. CT offers an opportunity for employers and jobseekers to try out each other and assess job fit, before making the hiring decision. During the trial, which can be up to three months, jobseekers receive a training allowance from WSG.

    For More Information
  15. The report is available online on the Ministry of Manpower’s Research and Statistics Department website at


  1. These included community, social & personal services, professional services and information & communications.
  2. 4Q 2019 and 2019 data are preliminary.
  3. In fact, local employment grew in every year of the last two decades, even in years when total employment shrank as businesses shed foreign workers.
  4. Similar to past periods, the number of retrenchments in the fourth quarter were always higher than the third quarter, with the exception of 2018.
  5. Annual figures are the simple averages of the non-seasonally adjusted figures obtained at quarterly intervals.
  6. Deflated by Consumer Price Index for all items at 2014 prices (2014=100).
  7. The 20th percentile income of full-time employed Singaporeans was $2,340 (including employer CPF contributions) and $2,058 (excluding employer CPF contributions) in June 2019.
  8. This includes the National Wages Council’s quantitative wage recommendations for low-wage workers and Progressive Wage Model for the cleaning, security and landscape sectors.
  9. Refers to the ratio of the median income to the 20th percentile income of full-time employed Singaporeans