Unemployment Rates

Cuts fell, employment rose, unemployment rates fell

A total of 3,397,200 people were employed in December 2021 (excluding MDW), of which 2,443,100 were residents, 3.7% above the December 2019 level.

Singapore’s labor market has seen a “significant recovery” in 2021, the latest report from the Department of Labor Research and Statistics of the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) revealed on Monday 14 March 2022.

According to the report, titled Labor Market Report 2021, total employment (excluding migrant domestic workers) rebounded in 2021, growing by 41,400, after a sharp contraction in 2020 (-166,600). This rebound, the report notes, was attributed to faster growth in resident employment (+71,300) which more than offset the decline in non-resident employment (-30,000).

Excluding work permit holders in construction, shipyards and processing, total employment growth was 34,000 during the year, “reversing the significant contraction in 107,500 in 2020,” the report added. However, the numbers “have yet to return to the pre-COVID growth rate.”

December 2021 employment data

A total of 3,397,200 people were employed in December 2021 (excluding MDW), of which 2,443,100 were residents, 3.7% above the December 2019 level.

Moreover, despite the gains in non-resident employment in the fourth quarter of 2021, the level of non-resident employment in December 2021 remained 18% lower than in December 2019; and non-residents accounted for 28.1% of total employment. This share remained below the one-third share in December 2019, due to “sustained reductions in non-resident employment”. While non-resident employment fell in most sectors, an increase was observed in the construction sector.

As for resident employment, it rose in most sectors, with health and social services and administrative and support services also posting “notable gains” over the year.

Reflecting the effects of strict travel restrictions for most of the year, the report says residents’ employment has declined in accommodation, arts, entertainment and recreation, air transport and support services. , albeit at a moderate pace compared to 2020.


On the unemployment front, the annual average unemployment rates recorded in 2021 were “significantly lower” than those of 2020, reflecting “the continuous improvement in the unemployment situation throughout the year”.

In particular, the numbers went from 3% to 2.7% overall; 4.1% to 3.5% for residents and 4.2% to 3.7% for citizens.

At the same time, the average annual resident long-term unemployment rate (1%) remained unchanged between 2020
and 2021, and remains high compared to 2018-2019 (0.7%).

December 2021 unemployment figures

Seasonally-adjusted unemployment rates remained on a downward trend in the last month of the year (overall: 2.4%; resident: 3.2%; citizen: 3.4%). Compared to September, resident unemployment rates declined across most age and education groups. Among residents in their 30s and 40s where the rate rose, it remained below levels seen in the first half.

Moving to 2022, unemployment rates continued to improve in January (overall: 2.4% to 2.3%; residents: 3.2% to 3.1%; citizens: 3.4% at 3.3%), “close to the average levels of 2018/2019.”


Regarding layoff data, the number of layoffs recorded in the fourth quarter of 2021 remained low, according to the report, with 0.7 layoffs per 1,000 employees. The majority came from the service sector, led by wholesale trade and financial services. These sectors tend to experience cutbacks as part of corporate reorganization/restructuring, the report points out.

Among residents, the incidence of downturn “remained stable or decreased” for most age, education and occupation groups, except among residents aged 60 and over where the incidence increased but “did not exceed pre-COVID quarterly levels”.

Outlook 2022

Sharing an outlook for 2022 in a Facebook post after the report was released, NTUC Deputy General Secretary Patrick Tay said, “Employers will need to prepare for a tight labor market and look for ways to rethink and reinvent work and employee workplaces, and embrace technology. /automation/mechanization/robotization/AI/digitalization to support developments coupled with the training and adaptation of their workforce to developments/changes.

“Workers will need to continue to embrace CET and lifelong learning to stay ready with new skills, relevant to new/transformed jobs and resilient to new changes as we pivot and transform to the next normal of work.”

He also pointed out that the outlook for various sectors “continues to be patchy and possibly uncertain” with a slow and gradual recovery in tourism and aviation-related sectors, amid the gradual easing of travel restrictions. global markets and the nascent revival of global travel. demand. Employment levels in these sectors could take longer to return to pre-COVID-19 levels, he added.

Main Image / Labor Market Report 2021

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