Total employment in Singapore took a record fall in the second quarter of 2020, according to statistics released on July 29 by the Ministry of Manpower. The number of workers in the city-state dropped by over 120,000 between April and June, more than four times the drop in the first quarter, while the total number of unemployed residents rose to more than 90,000—an overall unemployment rate of 2.9 percent.
According to the ministry, the services sector saw the largest fall in employment, reflecting the impact of lockdowns and social distancing on the F&B and retail trade sectors, while construction also saw a sharp fall due to work sites being closed for safety distancing.
While the current numbers are still not as severe as during previous recessions such as the global financial crisis or the SARS outbreak in 2003, both of those crises saw the unemployment rate continue to rise throughout the year despite government intervention to support businesses, suggesting that layoffs and retrenchments will continue over the months to come. Although surveys have suggested that employers are gradually returning to hiring, the "cautious hiring" approach is unlikely to offset the growing number of unemployed.
The Singapore government has been stepping up its efforts to get job seekers back into the workforce, including opening more centres providing career advice and job matching services, and opening up over 13,000 job attachments specifically targeting mid-career job-seekers.