April 29, 2020 / 6:39 AM / a month ago

Singapore's first quarter jobless rate highest in a decade, foreign employment drops

Pedestrians and joggers seen along the Helix Bridge, during dusk in the central business district of Singapore, November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lam/File Photo

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore’s unemployment rate edged up in the first quarter to its highest in more than a decade, as the government warned that labour market conditions were likely to further worsen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The overall unemployment rate rose to 2.4% from 2.3% in the previous quarter, data from the manpower ministry showed on Wednesday, the highest rate since the 2009 global financial crisis.

Total employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, fell 19,900 - its sharpest quarterly contraction since 2003 when the country was battling the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak. The fall was due to significant drops in foreign employment across manufacturing, services and construction.

Total retrenchments in the first quarter rose to 3,000 from 2,670 in the previous quarter, but was well below a peak of more than 12,000 in the first quarter of 2009.

Singapore is facing the deepest recession in its 55-year history, and authorities have warned that unemployment is likely to rise and wages drop.

The city-state has among the highest number of infections in Asia and has extended widespread curbs to contain the spread of the virus, which include the closure of most workplaces and schools until June 1.

“Labour market conditions are likely to worsen in the upcoming quarter,” the manpower ministry said, citing the sharp fall in demand globally and local virus containment measures.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and John Geddie; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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