HR & EDUCATION | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Hiring activity remains muted in Q4: survey

More than 26% of employers expect recovery to take 10-12 months.

Whilst hiring prospects will be better than the previous quarter, Singaporean job seekers can expect to face a muted hiring climate in the last quarter of 2020, according to the latest survey by ManpowerGroup Singapore.

Hiring prospects jumped sharply by 25 percentage points (ppt) in Q4 compared to Q3. However, this is still 8 ppt weaker than in Q4 2019.

Of the 462 employers interviewed, 7% forecast an increase in payrolls, 10% anticipate a decrease and 73% do not expect any changes, resulting in a net employment outlook of -3%, the survey stated.

Employers in four of the seven industry sectors forecast hiring gains in the fourth quarter. The strongest labor market is expected to be the Transportation & Utilities sector, with a net employment outlook of +5%.

Employers in Finance, Insurance & Real Estate sector also anticipate limited job gains, reporting an iutlook of +3%, whilst Outlooks of +1% are reported in both the Mining & Construction sector and the Public Administration & Education sector.

In contrast, employers in Manufacturing, Wholesale & Retail Trade and Services sectors report gloomy hiring intentions, with Outlooks of -12%, -7% and -1% respectively.

Compared to Q3, hiring sentiments improved in six of the seven industry sectors, with Mining & Construction sector’s employers reporting the steepest increase of 58 ppt. This is followed by the Services sector, where the Outlook is 33 ppt stronger.

Improvements in job prospects are also expected in the Wholesale & Retail Trade sector and the Manufacturing sector, where the reported hiring Outlooks have increased by 12 and 9 percentage points respectively.

However, hiring sentiment weakened in the Public Administration & Education sector, declining by 7 percentage points.

“With the opening of the economy in Phase Two, companies are expected to step up hiring of locals to fill jobs left vacant by Malaysians unable to return to work due to travel restrictions during the survey period,” ManpowerGroup Singapore Country Manager Linda Teo said.

Recovery is expected to be gradual—more than a quarter or 26% of employers forecast that it will take 10 to 12 months for hiring activity to return to pre-COVID-19 levels.

Around 22% are more upbeat, anticipating it to return within the next three months, and 19% expect this to take four to nine months.

Meanwhile, 16% of employers estimate it will take longer than a year.

When asked about existing members of the workforce that have been placed on a job retention or furlough scheme, ManpowerGroup Singapore found that 15% of companies implied plans to bring them back full-time. But a portion (16%) also indicated that there will be further cuts to their headcounts.

Size-wise, employers in all four organization size categories expect to reduce payrolls during the next three months, most notably in the large-size category (-10%). The most resilient Outlook of -2% is reported by small employers, according to ManpowerGroup Singapore.

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