In the three months to December, the jobless rate inched higher for both residents (3.0 percent from 2.9 percent) and citizens (3.1 percent from 3.0 percent).
Total employment (excluding foreign domestic workers/ (FDW) rose by 14,700, slightly lower than in the previous quarter (16,700), but still higher than the same quarter a year ago (10,700). Job losses were observed in manufacturing (-2,000, the bulk from petroleum, chemical & pharmaceutical products (-1,200)), after an increase in Q3 (3,500); and construction (-400) amid weakness in public sector construction activities. Meantime, job gains were recorded in services (17,000 excluding FDW) supported by hiring for festive season, namely food & beverage services (3,700) and retail trade (3,200).
Some 2,510 workers were laid off, down from 2,860 workers in Q3 and from 3,680 a year earlier. The increase in services was more than offset by lower layoffs in manufacturing. Retrenchments in construction remained similar.
The rate of re-entry among retrenched residents rose to 64 percent in Q4 from 62 percent in Q3. The rise was observed for most age, education and occupational groups, except for residents aged 50 & over, as well as those with diploma & professional qualifications.
The number of job vacancies continued its uptrend since 2017, rising to 62,300 in Q4 from 58,800 in Q3. As the increase in unemployed persons was relatively smaller, the seasonally adjusted ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons rose to 1.10 in Q4 from from 1.05 in Q3, and was broadly similar to the ratio in Q2 (1.08).
For full 2018, the annual average unemployment rate edged down to 2.1 percent from 2.2 percent in 2017, which was the highest annual figure since 2010. Unemployment fell for both resident (2.9 percent from 3.1 percent in 2017) and citizens (3.0 percent from 3.3 percent).
Total employment grew 38,300; the highest since 2014 (122,100), rebounding from a 10,700 decline in 2017. Local employment growth (27,400) was more than double that of foreigners (10,900). Local employment growth was also the highest since 2014 (96,000), while the foreign employment increase occurred after two consecutive years of dereases. The services sector added some 47,800 workers, led by community, social & personal services (10,700, around half from health & social services), information & communications (8,400) and transportation & storage (7,700). In contrast, total employment continued to fall in manufacturing (-2,400) and construction (-7,100), but the contraction eased. If marine shipyard was excluded, total employment in manufacturing would have increased by 1,100 instead.
Total retrenchments continued to decline in 2018 to 10,730, the lowest since 2011. Taking into account the size of the workforce, the incidence of retrenchment had been on a downtrend, and the 2018 rate (5.1 retrenched per 1,000 employees) was the lowest in the past decade.
The annual re-entry rate into employment among retrenched residents dipped to 63 percent in 2018 from 65 percent in 2017. Re-entry rates in the current three years have been lower than preceding years. This partly reflects the increasing share of those older, PMETs, and degree holders who tended to have below-average re-entry rates.