S’pore employers fire more workers than estimated

Shamim Adam

Singapore employers fired more workers than initially estimated last quarter and total employment contracted for the first time in almost six years as slumping production and exports led manufacturers to cut jobs.

The Southeast Asian nation’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 3.3 percent from 2.5 percent in the previous quarter, the Ministry of Manpower said today. A record 12,760 were made redundant last quarter, more than an April 30 estimate of 12,600 workers.

Singapore’s government said last month the nation may have “hit the bottom” of its deepest recession since independence in 1965. Manufacturers have cut jobs as the island’s exports dropped for 12 consecutive months in an economy forecast by the International Monetary Fund to be Asia’s weakest this year.

“Falling external demand has severely affected the manufacturing sector,” the government said. “The cutback in the manufacturing industry, along with employment losses in the external-oriented services industries, more than offset gains in the domestic-oriented services and construction sectors.”

Employers fired 10,900 workers, and another 1,860 were released from their contracts early between January and March. The jobless rate is the highest in more than three years, and economists in a central bank survey published last week predict unemployment will reach 4.2 percent at the end of 2009.

The manufacturing industry lost 22,100 jobs, while service industries added 7,500 new positions last quarter, the report showed. Construction companies hired 8,300 new workers, resulting in a total net loss of 6,200 jobs in the first three months of 2009, the report said.

Average wages before adjusting for inflation fell 3.7 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, the ministry said, after rising 2.4 percent in the previous three-month period. That was the first decline in 6 1/2 years, the ministry said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shamim Adam in Singapore at sadam2@bloomberg.net


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