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Labour Market Advance Release 1Q 2021

Labour Market Advance Release First Quarter 2021


1. Advance estimates showed the labour market continuing to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Resident employment grew at a moderated pace but outstripped the smaller decline in non-resident employment.As a result, for the first time since 4Q 2019, total employment saw modest expansion in 1Q 2021.The number of retrenchments declined for the second consecutive quarter, to a level usually observed in 2018 and 2019.Unemployment rates eased further in March 2021, though they remained elevated.

Main Findings1     

In 1Q 2021, total employment grew for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic

2. Total employment (excl. Migrant Domestic Workers or MDWs) grew in 1Q 2021 (4,800)2, after four consecutive quarters of decline.Growth in resident employment outpaced the decline in non-resident employment.

3. In 1Q 2021, the bulk of the employment increases were in Services (primarily from residents).Within Services, sectors such as Information & Communications, Financial Services, and Professional Services continued to see employment expansion. Following sustained contractions in the preceding quarters, total employment in Construction saw a slight rebound in 1Q 2021, as the contraction in non-resident employment moderated significantly.On the other hand, employment in Manufacturing continued to contract, albeit at a slower pace.In general, resident employment growth was broad-based, and contraction in non-resident employment was also observed in all sectors.

The unemployment situation continued to ease in March 2021

4. Against the backdrop of a gradually recovering economy, unemployment rates saw a further easing of 0.1%-point in March 2021 (overall: from 3.0% to 2.9%; resident: from 4.1% to 4.0%; citizen: from 4.3% to 4.2%).Since peaking in September 20203, unemployment rates have fallen steadily over the past two quarters, though still remaining elevated compared to pre-COVID-19 rates.

Retrenchments are expected to decline to levels usually observed in 2018 and 2019

5. The number of retrenchments peaked in 3Q 20204 and experienced the second quarter of decline in 1Q 2021 (2,100).The incidence of retrenchment is expected to decline as well (from 2.8 retrenched per 1,000 employees in 4Q 2020 to 1.1 in 1Q 2021).Even though retrenchments have fallen to a level usually observed in 2018 and 2019, we could still see pockets of job displacements due to on-going restructuring and re-organisation.


6. The labour market is still not fully back to pre-COVID-19 conditions.As a result of on-going travel and entry restrictions, hiring remains subdued in sectors such as construction and hospitality.Unemployment rates may have eased but remain higher than before the pandemic.Nevertheless, preliminary data for 1Q 2021 showed an encouraging pick-up in employment that was fairly broad-based.In the Labour Market Report 1Q 2021 (to be released in mid-June 2021), more details will be provided, such as resident and non-resident employment, sectoral breakdowns, number of job vacancies, labour turnover, and re-entry rates among retrenched locals.

7. In the foreseeable future, travel restrictions will impact inflows of work pass holders.Employers are strongly encouraged to leverage schemes that support reskilling and expand local hiring, and to consider a wider pool of candidates:

  • To secure the rebound, the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) was extended to end-September 2021 to support employers to expand their local hiring.Employers hiring eligible locals can receive up to $15,000 per hire while those hiring mature workers, persons with disabilities, and ex-offenders can receive up to $54,000 per hire.
  • Employers who need to reskill mid-career jobseekers that may not have the full complement of skills and experience can tap on the career conversion programmes under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package. These programmes provide substantial wage and training support in addition to the JGI.Employers who are still not able to offer permanent positions can consider participating in the SGUnited Traineeships and SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways programmes. As of February 2021, the collective effort of government agencies, unions and employers has helped nearly 93,000 locals to take up new jobs and skills opportunities since the SGUnited Jobs & Skills Package was launched in April 2020.

8. Arising from business transformations and restructuring, the profile of job vacancies has changed.More vacancies are being created to meet new business requirements rather than to replace resigned staff. MOM encourages employers and jobseekers to keep an open mind to new opportunities and make full use of the programmes and services that have been made available.Jobseekers who require assistance with their job search can approach Workforce Singapore (WSG) and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), including through the 24 SGUnited Jobs and Skills Centres across the country.The Ministry of Manpower and WSG have also appointed Adecco Personnel Pte Ltd, an employment agency with over 64 years of global experience in employment facilitation, as a SGUnited Jobs and Skills Placement Partner to offer another avenue for mature workers, long-term unemployed jobseekers, or persons with disabilities, to access professional career matching services.

For More Information

9. The report is available online on the Ministry of Manpower’s Research and Statistics Department website at




  1. 1Q 2021 data are preliminary.
  2. As estimates on employment change are derived primarily using data available in the months of January and February, they are subject to revisions.
  3. In September 2020, unemployment rates were 3.5%, 4.8% and 4.9% for overall, resident and citizen respectively.
  4. Total number of retrenchments reached 9,120 in 3Q 2020.