THE number of job vacancies in Singapore hit a four-year high of 50,200 in September this year, reflecting the buoyant state of the economy.

It is a 36 per cent rise over the 36,900 openings the previous September, when Singapore was recovering from a recession.

Preliminary figures released yesterday by the Ministry of Manpower show the vast majority (76 per cent) of the vacancies are in the services sector, a situation economists attribute to the sector being the top creator of jobs this year.

In contrast, job openings in manufacturing totalled 8,300 (17 per cent) and in construction, 3,300 (7 per cent).

The hunger for workers is especially acute in the hotel, retail and financial services industries, noted Citigroup economist Kit Wei Zheng. While the services sector is bulging with job openings, employers have found it hard to fill them as a result of government measures restricting the inflow of foreign workers, he said.

Barclays Capital economist Leong Wai Ho suggested that companies focus on retraining their workers to take on more work: 'They should also look at ways to recruit more older workers and also contract workers.'

The job vacancy figures are collated from a survey done in October of about 10,000 organisations, including the public sector. Organisations polled employ at least 25 workers each.

The final figures will be released next month in a report that also gives more details on the most in-demand jobs.

Yesterday's estimates follow a slew of employment data in recent months that paint a rosy picture of the labour market this year.

Overall unemployment, at 2.1 per cent, is the lowest since March 2008. Employment of residents aged 25 to 64 is at a record 77.1 per cent in June. And low-wage workers earning $1,200 or less a month have dropped to 400,100 this June, from 401,600 last June.

The job vacancy figures also give a breakdown of employment opportunities by job types and minimum qualifications. They show that overall, the most sought-after workers are teachers (2,840), security officers (2,180), waiters (2,150) and retail assistants (1,860).

Workers with at least a university qualification are in hot demand too, as job openings for them rose by a whopping 64 per cent over the past year, growing from 6,450 to 10,570.

In comparison, openings for workers with secondary education - who in previous years enjoyed the most vacancies - jumped by 30 per cent, from 7,550 to 9,840. As for job types, openings for white-collar workers held steady, at around 43 per cent (21,800) of all vacancies.

The shortage of security officers has employers like Mr Gary Haris, senior business development manager at KH Security Agency, suggesting that the rules of employment be relaxed. His company has 70 vacancies, 30 of which resulted from employees leaving for jobs in the two new integrated resorts and the hospitality industry.

But only Singaporeans and Malaysians can be employed as security officers, said Mr Haris: 'It will help if we're allowed to recruit other nationalities too.'