Last Week in Numbers: Singapore’s Local Labour Market Expands

We start off in Singapore where the growth of the economy in 2017 has contributed to an improvement in the labour market for locals. The unemployment rate for Singaporeans improved to 3% from 3.4%. At the same time, the combined unemployment rate for Singaporeans and permanent residents declined to 3% from 3.2% a year ago.

There were a total of 21,300 more locals in jobs last year, bringing the total number of employed people in Singapore to 3.42 million as of December 2017. Retrenchments also fell to 14,720 from a 7-year high in 2016 of 19,170. The rate of re-entry into employment within six months was about 65%. However, older workers and degree holders had a harder time on average. The Ministry of Manpower said it forecasts employment to continue to expand this year as the economy is expected to grow by 1.5% to 3.5%.

Labour productivity, measured as value added per actual hour worked, also rose by 4.5% from the previous year. The median income for a Singaporean in full-time work, including CPF, also increased to $4,050 last June, up 5.9% from the previous year. After adjusting for inflation, real income growth was a respectable 5.3%.

New private home sales in Singapore declined 61.5% in February from a year ago. Developers only sold 377 units, down from 979 sold the previous year. On a monthly basis, there was a 28% decline in sales from the 524 units sold in January. URA’s data shows that the top selling projects of the month were at Queens Peak at Dundee Road, where 47 units at a median price of $1730 per square foot (psf) were sold. Another 34 units at Kingsford Waterbay were sold at a median price of $1349 psf.

Singapore is the world’s most expensive city for the fifth straight year, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest Worldwide Cost of Living report. Singapore had a score of 116. Paris came in second with an index score of 112. Hong Kong fell two spots to 4th with a score of 111. It was noted that car ownership was a big contributor of the high cost of living in Singapore and that the city-state still had a significantly cheaper cost of household goods and hiring domestic help than its peers.

Meanwhile, China’s industrial output rose 7.2% in the first two months of the year, beating analysts estimates of 6.1%. China’s fixed asset investment growth also expanded 7.9% during that time. Private sector fixed-asset investment rose 8.1%, an increase from 6% a year ago. Retail sales also rose 9.7%, albeit slightly slower than analysts estimate of 9.8%. Premier Li Keqiang said last week that China aims to grow its economy by 6.5% this year.

The United States added 313,000 new non-farm jobs in February. This is the largest monthly increase in 19 months. The unemployment rate remained steady at 4.1% for the fifth month in a row. Hourly wage increased 0.2% from a month ago, and 2.6% from a year ago. However, consumer inflation came in at 2.1%, fueling concerns about the wage-growth, inflation mismatch.

U.S. President Donald Trump is looking to impose tariffs on up to US$60 billion worth of Chinese imports. China currently runs a US$375 billion trade surplus with the United States. While the tariffs on steel and aluminium are viewed as relatively insignificant, further trade restrictions by the US might lead to a harsh response from China.

And finally, Elizabeth Holmes, the once tech startup star, has been fined by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for fraud. She had founded Theranos when she was just 19, which touted a new way of blood testing that requires much fewer blood samples and delivers faster results. Theranos had a peak valuation of US$9 billion. However, the technology has been uncovered to be fraudulent and unreliable. The SEC has charged Holmes and former Teranos president, Ramesh Balwani, with raising more than US$700 million by exaggerating or lying about their business and technology. Holmes will also pay US$500,000 fine to the SEC.

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