Reporting the early effects of COVID-19 on the labour market in the first quarter of 2020, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said total employment in Singapore registered its sharpest quarterly contraction on record.
Unemployment rates and retrenchments rose, and there were also significantly more employees placed on short work-week or temporary layoff.
Average paid hours worked, including overtime hours, have also declined. Meanwhile, job vacancies continued to decline after a brief uptick last quarter, MOM added.
In the labour report for the three months ending March, seasonally adjusted unemployment rates rose from 2.3 per cent to 2.4 per cent overall. This remained lower than the previous highs during SARS (2003) and the Global Financial Crisis (2009).
MOM noted that there had been job and wage support measures to encourage employers to retain workers and retrench only as a last resort. This helped to keep retrenchments in 1Q 2020 significantly lower than the peak during the Global Financial Crisis, and were similar to a year ago (3,230).
However, layoffs rose from the last quarter of 209, largely due to sectoral downturn or poor business. Sectors with the largest quarterly increase include Retail Trade, Accommodation and Food & Beverage Services.
"Labour market conditions are likely to worsen in the upcoming quarter, given the sharp fall in hiring demand globally as well as in Singapore due to circuit breaker measures," MOM said in its press statement. "This is reflected in the decline in the ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons."
The recently-formed National Jobs Council will identify and develop job opportunities and skills training for Singaporeans amidst the COVID-19 situation. "The Council will oversee the design and implementation of the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package announced in the Fortitude Budget," MOM added.
The package aims to create close to 100,000 jobs, traineeship and skills training opportunities.