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Labour Market Report Third Quarter 2021


1. Singapore’s labour market performed better in 3Q 2021 compared to the previous quarter. Resident employment grew at a faster pace, although total employment declined due to a continued fall in non-resident employment. There was an easing in unemployment rates and retrenchments; with fewer employees placed on short work-week or temporary layoff as well. At the same time, the re-entry rate among retrenched residents recovered, and job vacancies rose for the fifth consecutive quarter. As Singapore moves into the “transition phase” of reopening and travel and dining restrictions ease gradually, the labour market is expected to continue its recovery in the coming months.

2. Nevertheless, the recovery remains uneven across sectors. Resident employment growth in consumer and tourism-related sectors trailed behind outward-oriented sectors. Notwithstanding strong resident employment growth, the resident long-term unemployment rate remains above the pre-COVID level, and points to the need to redouble efforts to reskill our workforce for future jobs and skills.

Main Findings

Resident employment grew by 19,100, leading to a significantly smaller decline in total employment compared to 2Q 2021

3. Total employment declined by a significantly smaller extent in 3Q 2021 (-2,400 excluding Migrant Domestic Workers (MDW)) than the previous quarter (-16,300).This was because resident employment increased strongly (19,100), while non-resident employment fell (-21,500) at a pace similar to 2Q 2021.

4. Resident employment increases were led by outward-oriented sectors of Information & Communications, Professional Services and Financial Services, as well as domestically-oriented sectors of Administrative & Support Services and Health & Social Services. However, resident employment growth in consumer and tourism-related sectors such as Food & Beverage Services, Arts, Entertainment & Recreation, Accommodation, and Retail Trade continued to trail behind the other sectors. Ongoing border restrictions contributed to the continued contraction of non-resident employment across most industries.

Unemployment rates continued to improve, but remain above pre-COVID levels

5. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rates declined further from August to September 2021 (Overall: 2.6% (-0.1%-point)); Resident: 3.5% (-0.1%-point)); Citizen: 3.7% (-0.1%-point)).However, the resident long-term unemployment rate increased to 1.2% in September 2021 (from 0.9% in June, seasonally adjusted). The latest October 2021 data shows continued improvement in unemployment rates.

Retrenchments declined

6. The number and incidence of retrenchments declined in 3Q 2021 (from 2,340 or 1.3 retrenched per 1,000 employees to 1,900 or 1.1).The six-month re-entry rate among retrenched residents improved in 3Q 2021 (from 64% to 66%), back to the rate seen in 1Q 2021.

7. There were fewer employees who were placed on short work-week or temporary layoff in 3Q 2021 (4,060) compared to 2Q (5,580), though the number remained above pre-pandemic levels. In particular, there was a notable decrease in Air Transport & Supporting Services, as firms started to ramp up capacity in anticipation of some resumption in air travel.

Job vacancies rose amidst continued border restrictions on foreign labour inflow

8. The number of job vacancies (seasonally adjusted) increased further from 92,100 in June 2021 to 98,700 in September 2021, though the pace of increase has slowed. Together with the decline in unemployed persons, the ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons trended higher. There were 209 job vacancies for every 100 unemployed persons in September 2021, up from 163 in June 2021 (seasonally adjusted).

9. The increase in job vacancies should be seen in the context of border restrictions on the inflow of foreign labour, which has led to total employment (excluding MDW) declining by 173,100 since December 2019, notwithstanding strong resident employment growth. In particular, sectors which have seen substantial decreases in Work Permit holders, namely Manufacturing, Construction, Food & Beverage Services, and Administrative & Support Services, accounted for 38% of all job vacancies. The number of job vacancies, and the ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons, is expected to remain high until border restrictions are lifted.

10. At the same time, there was sustained demand in growth sectors such as Professional Services, Financial Services, Information & Communications, and Health & Social Services, where resident employment has also increased in tandem. In-demand occupations include Software, Web & Multimedia Developers, Systems Analysts, Commercial & Marketing Sales Executives, Accountants, and Nurses.


11. Alongside the projected economic growth, the labour market is expected to continue on its recovery trajectory for the remainder of 2021 and into 2022, but unevenly across sectors. The labour market will become tighter as border restrictions continue to constrain manpower supply from overseas.The Government and our tripartite partners will continue to support employers to accelerate the pace of transformation, become more manpower-lean and strengthen their local workforce.

12. Enhanced support remains available under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package:

  1. From September 2020 to May 2021, the Jobs Growth Incentive has supported hiring of close to 400,000 locals by 58,000 businesses.The Jobs Growth Incentive has been extended to end-March 2022, and continues to provide salary support for employers to expand local hiring. Higher support is available for workers aged 40 and above, persons with disabilities, and ex-offenders.
  2. Employers can tap on Career Conversion Programmes to hire and train mid-career workers for new occupations with good long-term prospects.Support is available for up to 90% of training and salary costs.
  3. The SGUnited Traineeships and Mid-Career Pathways programmes continue to be available. Jobseekers can make use of these programmes to acquire industry-relevant skills with company hosts, and put themselves in a stronger position to seize new opportunities in the future.
  4. Jobseekers can find support through multiple channels. Jobseekers who require career matching services can approach WSG and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute, including through any of the 24 SGUnited Jobs & Skills Centres across the country. Mature, long-term unemployed, or persons with disabilities can be assisted by Adecco, our appointed SGUnited Jobs and Skills Placement Partner, to explore job opportunities.

13. We encourage employers with unfilled vacancies to consider a wider pool of jobseekers, including the unemployed, those from different sectors, and mature workers. Employers who focus on the suitability of the candidates instead of personal circumstances and characteristics that are not relevant to their job-fit will be more successful in finding matches.

  1. Employers can invest in skills top-up – by hiring jobseekers with a good attitude and who may be a good fit with the company’s culture, and put them through reskilling programmes such as Career Conversion Programmes to bridge the skills gap.
  2. To make their vacancies more attractive to jobseekers, employers can redesign the job roles, and improve working conditions. Employers can tap on programmes such as the Productivity Solutions Grant, which offers enhanced support for job redesign, and the Job Redesign Reskilling Programme.

For More Information

14. The “Labour Market Report, Third Quarter 2021” is released by the Manpower Research and Statistics Department, Ministry of Manpower. The report and technical notes on the various indicators are available at


  1. In October 2021, the unemployment rate continued to improve for residents (3.4% (-0.1%-point)) and citizens (3.6% (-0.1%-point)), and the overall unemployment rate held steady (2.6%). However, unemployment rates remained above 2019 levels.
  2. Quarterly average was 740 in 2018 – 2019.
  3. The job vacancy to unemployed ratio was last above 2 in 1997.