Singapore (VNA) – Singapore’s labour market has continued its recovery from the COVID-19 in the first three months of the year, with total employment growing for the first time since the start of the pandemic, according the country’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

The services sector led the way in adding jobs to the market, particularly information and communications, financial services and professional services.

Employment in construction also saw a slight rebound, while that in manufacturing continued to contract, but at a slower pace.

Meanwhile, unemployment here, which peaked at 3.5 percent in September last year, continued to ease but remains above pre-pandemic levels.

The estimated overall unemployment rate in March is 2.9 percent, said MOM.

The ministry’s data also showed that the number of retrenchments continued to decline for the second consecutive quarter to pre-pandemic levels, after peaking in the third quarter of 2020.

Similarly, the incidence of retrenchments also fell, from 2.8 workers retrenched per 1,000 employees in the fourth quarter of last year to 1.1 workers retrenched per 1,000 employees in the first quarter of this year.

However, MOM cautioned that there may still be pockets of job displacements due to ongoing restructuring and reorganisation of businesses.

While the preliminary estimates show encouraging signs of broad-based recovery, the labour market is still not fully back to pre-COVID-19 conditions, the ministry said.

The labour market will continue to face challenges from travel restrictions that affect the inflow of work pass holders, as well as from the changing profiles of jobs available as a result of business transformations.

Business sentiment appears relatively positive, MOM said, citing ongoing polls of companies. In March, 73 percent of the companies polled indicated they had plans to hire, up from 65 percent in December last year.

The proportion of companies that intend to cut staff size fell to 2.2 percent, from 2.8 percent in December./.