With the circuit breaker having been in place for most of April and all of May, leading to widespread business shutdowns, the job numbers for the second quarter were expected to be grim, and that is how they turned out. The unemployment rate jumped to 2.9 per cent, from 2.4 per cent in the first quarter, the highest level in more than a decade. Total employment plunged by 121,800 – the biggest quarterly fall on record, and retrenchments more than doubled compared with the first quarter. The layoffs spanned most sectors, including wholesale trade and transport, as well as construction, restaurants, retail, entertainment, recreation, the arts, and education. They came from not only small and medium-sized enterprises, but also large local enterprises and multinational corporations. The actual picture could be worse than the numbers suggest. As NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay pointed out, the employment numbers exclude older workers who are not re-employed or foreigners whose work passes are not renewed, while layoffs do not include those by companies with fewer than 25 staff, such as small retailers and restaurants.
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Manpower Minister Josephine Teo cautioned that the job losses are unlikely to have bottomed out, given the weakness in global demand as well as local private consumption. Moreover, many of the layoffs arising from the circuit breaker will show up only in the third quarter, and the number could rise with the expiration of the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) this month.
READ MORE: https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/st-editorial/jobs-crisis-may-require-more-measures
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