TWELVE years into his working life, investment banker Jeremy Lui had switched jobs four times, working at five banks.

In March, he was on the move again, after being offered a 25 per cent pay hike. “I don’t see it as job-hopping but as moving on to better opportunities,” the 37-year-old said.

He is not alone. Job-hopping is on the rise here, in line with the economic recovery, said recruitment agencies and companies interviewed by The Straits Times.

They are now more demanding when it comes to job-hunting, with the jobless rate dipping to 2.1 per cent – the lowest in 2 1/2 years – according to the Manpower Ministry’s third quarter flash estimates.

And when a better offer comes along, they have no qualms about jumping ship.

According to a recent report by human resource consultancy Hudson Global Resources, 56 per cent of respondents polled said they saw a higher turnover rate over the past six months.

Among them, 39 per cent saw rates of between 6 and 10 per cent; 19 per cent said it was as high as 11 to 20 per cent.

The survey, which for the first time included questions on turnover rates, polled about 550 executives in key business sectors.

This phenomenon was especially prominent in the health-care and life science industry, as well as the banking and finance sector, said the report.

Five other recruitment agencies The Straits Times interviewed said they had also observed a similar trend since the start of the year as a result of the improving job market.

Human resource solutions firm Adecco’s regional director for South-east Asia, Ms Lynne Ng, said: “Employees who wanted to change jobs during the recession, but felt nervous or wary of the market conditions, may now consider looking for that next career move.”

Mr Vincent Romano, a senior consultant from Robert Walters Singapore, a specialist recruitment consultancy, added: “Candidates who were made redundant during the previous downturn may not be as loyal. As a result, they are more open to external opportunities.”

With more of Generation Y joining the workforce, job-hopping rates are likely to remain high. “It is quite unusual now to see someone with five years’ experience or more, or someone who has held only one or two jobs since graduating,” said Mr Romano.

Generation Y, or Gen Y, refers to those born between 1977 and 1999. This group includes those in their 20s or early 30s. They form about 20 per cent – or 40,000 – of the economically active population, according to a 2008 Singapore Human Resources Institute study.

Recent graduate Clara Dyeo, 23, is one of them. After graduating, she went on a three-month holiday to Australia and is now teaching drama and English to primary school pupils on a part-time basis.

Although she already has offers from a couple of companies, she has not found one that matches her expectations of pay, job scope and growth opportunities.

“I didn’t look for work immediately after graduation because I was pretty confident of the job market. With companies hiring again, I believe I should be able to find a suitable one soon,” she said.

To retain workers, some companies make counter-offers of higher pay with, in some cases, even the CEO making a personal call to employees to dissuade them from leaving, Mr Romano said.

The GMP Group, a recruitment agency, said bosses would offer a “moderate increment” of 8 to 10 per cent, although this would depend on how well the industry and organisation were faring.

But high turnover may be bad for companies because it incurs cost, such as recruitment and training fees, said Ms Georgie Chong, executive general manager of Hudson Global Resources.

While most multinational corporations and banks can absorb the loss of human capital and find replacements easily, family-run businesses and small and medium-sized enterprises are dismayed by the rise in job-hoppers.

“The younger ones are especially eager to move on, which means I have wasted almost a year training most of them,” said Mr Aaron Im, a manager at a family-run foodstuff business. He had hired two fresh graduates who left eight months into the job, after their training was over. He has since hired Malaysians.

Still, Singapore has a lower turnover rate compared to Hong Kong and China which reported higher rates of about 70 and 58 per cent respectively, said the Hudson report.

Ms Chong said the turnover was lower here because the local market was “more mature, with more stable employees”.