MORE workers are being laid off, and a growing proportion of them are higher-skilled.
Overall, layoffs rose 5 per cent last year to 11,560, up from 11,010 a year earlier, amid continued economic restructuring. As the pool of employees grew, there was no change in the rate of layoffs - it affected 5.8 workers per 1,000 employees in both years.
However, 7.3 in every 1,000 PMETs were affected last year, with 6,430 asked to go.
They made up 56 per cent of those who lost their jobs last year, a proportion that has been on the rise since 2010, when they comprised only 35 per cent.
Experts said this could be because economic restructuring has been moving up the value chain.
"Most of the low-lying fruit of capital or technology investments to reap productivity have been picked," said OCBC economist Selena Ling.
PMETs in the manufacturing, information and communications and financial services industries were most at risk, the MOM report revealed.
Among residents, PMETs formed 66 per cent of those laid off last year, disproportionately higher than their share of the resident workforce at 52 per cent.
The MOM report also noted that both the manufacturing and construction sectors let more workers go last year than in 2012.
High operating and labour costs affected the manufacturing industry, while poor business or business failure not due to recession was the top reason for layoffs in construction, amid a slowdown in building activities.
On the other hand, fewer people were let go in the service sector last year than in 2012,
with restructuring of business processes to become more efficient as the top reason for layoffs.
The overall rate of re-entry into employment dipped for the second time in two years.
Some 66 per cent of residents laid off in the first three quarters of last year were employed by December, compared with 68 per cent in the previous year.
MOM said that this was weighed down by PMETs, "who take longer to secure re-entry into employment, as they spend more time seeking jobs that match their skills, qualifications and salary expectations".
Also, older residents aged 50 and up had the hardest time getting back into jobs last year, compared with those in other age groups.
Only 55 per cent were able to find another job within 12 months of being laid off, down from 61 per cent the year before.
Nonetheless, experts pointed to the low overall unemployment rate as a sign that those who lose their jobs are likely to find employment in other sectors.
Speaking on the sidelines of an MOM seminar, Singapore National Employers Federation president Stephen Lee said the job market is still tight, "so the PMEs should be able to find work, provided they are not too choosy".
"The job offer and job seeker ratio is still quite healthy in the favour of job seekers," he added.
But in the years to come, the number of higher-skilled jobs may not keep up with the huge supply of graduates, said Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Chua Hak Bin.
More re-skilling and job placements may be needed for the mid-level white-collar workers, particularly in the infocomms and financial services industries, said OCBC's Ms Ling.