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     FrontPage Edition: Fri 17 September 2004

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Labour Market - 2nd quarter 2004 report


The Manpower Research and Statistics Department has published the report on “Labour Market, Second Quarter 2004”. The 44-page report provides an update on the state of the labour market.

The strong economic recovery has led to more people securing jobs in the second quarter this year.

Employment grew for the fourth consecutive quarter but at a slower pace than before. This brought employment to its highest level in nearly two years while retrenchment in the quarter eased to a three and a half year low, reflecting greater confidence in the economy.

Total employment increased by 10,900 (0.5%) in the second quarter to reach 2,159,800 as at June 2004.

However, the growth momentum has eased after the sustained increases since the third quarter of last year.

Sectorally, the bulk of the employment increases continued to come from services which added 8,000 (0.5%) workers in the quarter. Although, lower than the gains of 11,400 (0.8%) in the preceding quarter, it was nevertheless a sharp reversal from the loss of 12,100 (-0.8%) experienced in the same quarter last year during the SARS outbreak.

Employment in the goods-producing industries also expanded by 2,900 (0.4%) due to continued strong job gains from manufacturing (6,400, 1.5%), which outnumbered the persistent cutback in construction (-2,700, -1.2%).

The job creation following the robust economic recovery has helped curb a rise in unemployment, despite the upward pressures caused by the entry of this year’s cohort of tertiary graduates into the job market. 

The seasonally adjusted overall unemployment rate was 4.5% in June 2004, unchanged since
December 2003. Among the resident labour force, the seasonally adjusted rate was 5.0%, marginally lower than 5.1% in March 2004 but the same as in December 2003.

An estimated 103,000 residents were unemployed in June 2004. The seasonally adjusted figure was 89,000 P.

In June 2004, the resident long term unemployment rate1 stood at 1.7%, higher than 1.5% a year ago but still below the peak of 1.9% in June 2002.

Close to three in every ten unemployed residents (29% or 30,000) have been looking for work for at least 25 weeks, as compared to 25% (or 26,000) a year ago.

Long term unemployment affected mainly the less educated (those with secondary and below secondary qualifications) or the matured (aged 40 & above). Respectively, they formed 66% and 60% of the long term unemployed.

In line with the improvement in economic conditions, fewer jobs were lost. 2,055 workers were retrenched in the quarter, a decline of 31% from the previous quarter and 60% from the same period a year ago2.

Supported by improved economic conditions and possibly seasonal influences, 64% of the locals retrenched in the first quarter of 2004 found re-employment as at June 2004. This was an improvement from 51% for the preceding cohort as at March 2004.

There were 15,400 private sector job openings2 in June 2004. Although this was 29% higher than the 12,000 vacancies registered a year earlier, it was unchanged from March 2004.

Without an underlying increase in job
vacancies from three months ago, the seasonally adjusted ratio of job vacancies
to unemployed persons dipped to 29p job openings for every 100 job seekers in June 2004 from 30 for every 100 in March 2004. However, this was still an improvement from 23 per 100 in June 2003.

Although employment continued to rise, the underlying growth momentum in job creation has softened at the close of the second quarter.

However, recent expectation survey results and anecdotal evidence suggest that the jobs outlook remains positive.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the labour market is likely to be still on track for continued recovery, supported by the festive boost towards the end of the year.

For more information

The report is available online at the Ministry of Manpower’s Internet website: 

P preliminary
1 The long-term unemployment rate refers to the proportion of the labour force who have been unemployed for at least 25 weeks.
2 Data pertain to private sector establishments each with at least 25 employees.


Source: Ministry of Manpower Press Release 15 Sep 2004

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