THE range of new measures designed to lift labour output fell flat last year with productivity showing zero growth, according to data released yesterday.

While the figures from the quarterly Economic Survey of Singapore will disappoint policymakers, they are an improvement on 2012, when productivity shrank 2 per cent from 2011.

Productivity has been a key theme in recent Budgets and is expected to feature strongly today, as firms continue to grapple with restructuring and rising costs.

"It takes a while for businesses to restructure, to take on and implement various productivity initiatives, but we see encouraging signs," said Ms Ow Foong Pheng, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).

Productivity in the manufacturing sector is expected to improve, although "we need to continue to work on" the domestically oriented services industry, she said.

A study by the ministry's economics division, also released yesterday, showed that most sectors became more productive between 2008 and 2013.

However, employment grew faster in the less productive sectors, which dragged down overall productivity growth.

The study concluded that efforts to raise productivity should focus on restructuring the economy towards more productive sectors, instead of only aiming to boost output in each sector.

Sectors with below-average productivity levels, such as construction, business services and accommodation and food services, increased their share of employment between 2008 and 2013.

In particular, a surge in building and infrastructure projects in recent years has led to a substantial expansion of the construction sector.

Over the same period, the more productive sectors such as electronics, transportation and storage, and wholesale and retail trade recorded slower job growth.

The MTI study showed that labour productivity grew by an average of 1.6 per cent each year between 2008 and 2013, higher than the 1.1 per cent in the preceding five years.

The stronger productivity growth came mainly from the biomedical manufacturing, precision engineering, finance and insurance, business services and other services sectors.