LAST year was a paradox for Singapore's economy - for the first time ever, the economy shrank but employment grew.
Economic growth for 2009 came in at -2 per cent after taking a beating from the global financial crisis but job numbers grew 1.3 per cent, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said yesterday.
This was due to two factors - job support schemes such as Jobs Credit and the Skills Programme for Upgrading and Resilience, and the labour-intensive construction sector.
The sector added 13,000 jobs last year when employment was at its bleakest, thanks to civil engineering works and a boom in the private property market. This was in stark contrast to previous recessions, which usually coincided with a property bust.
Initial forecasts had tipped that jobs would take a tumble since employment typically lags two to three quarters behind economic growth.
When the recession began in the second quarter of 2008, total employment followed the formula by falling in the first quarter of last year.
But a sharp rebound began in the third quarter and by December, employment had pushed past pre-crisis levels.
'Compared to previous recessions, the peak-to-trough decline in employment during the 2008/2009 recession was uncharacteristically small and the turnaround unusually fast,' said MTI.
Even though previous recessions in 1984/1985 and 2001 were of the same duration or shorter, the declines in employment then stretched for more than two years and resulted in more than 135,000 and 79,900 jobs lost respectively, it said.
Employment has recovered faster here than in other developed economies such as the United States, Britain and Japan.
Source: Straits Times, 20 Feb 2010