(Bloomberg) -- Singapore’s non-resident workforce expanded for the first time in two years last quarter, driven by an increase in the construction sector after some border restrictions were eased.

That helped push total employment up by 47,400 in the quarter, the Ministry of Manpower said Friday, as a pick-up in local resident hires also gained pace driven by seasonal hiring in the service and retail sectors and growing demand in areas like IT and financial services.

For December, the seasonally-adjusted overall unemployment rate narrowed to 2.4%, from 2.5% the previous month, the ministry said.

“The unemployment situation continued to improve, and we could expect unemployment rates to decline to pre-Covid levels in the months ahead,” the ministry said in a statement.

The finance and trade hub, which relies on foreign labor across all sectors, has been easing travel restrictions in recent months to alleviate a workforce crunch. Last week, economists at Morgan Stanley warned that labor constraints may further drive inflation, with the ratio of job vacancies to unemployed last year jumping to the highest in more than two decades.

A resumption in entry approvals for fully vaccinated construction workers from early November drove the rise in non-resident employment during the last quarter, even as the foreign workforce in other sectors remained relatively flat, the ministry said. Detailed figures will be published in March.

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