Singapore retail sales fall a sixth month as job losses climb

Shamim Adam

Singapore’s retail sales fell for a sixth month in March, extending the longest period of declines since 2002, as the nation’s worst recession and the loss of thousands of jobs depressed spending.

The retail sales index dropped 7.3 percent from a year earlier, after sliding a revised 5.5 percent in February, the Statistics Department said today. The median estimate of 11 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a 7 percent decline. Adjusted for seasonal factors, sales fell 5.1 percent from February.

Singapore’s economy is expected to shrink as much as 9 percent this year and the central bank expects a “slow and gradual” recovery as exports and production continue to slump. Employers fired a record number of workers last quarter, and companies such as Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. have cut or frozen wages.

“Employment is going to keep on deteriorating and discretionary spending will continue to come down,” said Vishnu Varathan, a regional economist at Forecast Singapore Pte. “We are not expecting a strong improvement in retail sales until the early part of 2010 when the labor market stabilizes.”

Singapore’s unemployment rate rose to 3.2 percent last quarter from 2.5 percent in the previous period, according to the Ministry of Manpower. Employers cut 12,600 jobs in the first three months of the year.

Vehicle sales fell 8.2 percent in March from the same month in 2008 and slid 20.6 percent from February.

Purchases of apparel and footwear dropped 15.1 percent while sales of furniture and household equipment declined 23.1 percent from a year earlier. Sales at gas stations slipped 19.4 percent amid lower oil prices.

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