In Singapore unemployment jumped from 4.1 to 4.8 percent in the fourth quarter. According to one academic, it is the highest level of unemployment the city-state has seen in more than 20 years.

Professor Chen Kang of Nanyang University in Singapore says the current unemployment is more severe then that during the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. "Singapore has a large supply of foreign workers, which used to be a buffer that whenever you have a week demand you send foreign worker back home, but the current situation is quite different because what we are seeing is that those managerial level workers are being laid off."

Higher unemployment was also reported in the Philippines, where October's jobless rate rose to 10.2 percent. The figure is well above the 9.8 percent figure of October last year.

The government statistics bureau noted that agricultural unemployment rose by half a percentage point whereas unemployment in the service sector climbed by point-eight percent.

Maxis Communications, the largest mobile phone company in Malaysia, confirmed a deal last week to take over the cellular operations of its smallest rival. Maxis will pay $389 million for the cellular assets of Time.Com. Analysts say the merger should help the company maintain its top position in the market, which after the merger will be 41 percent.

The news follows the announced merger of state-owned Telekom Malaysia with Celcom, reducing the number of Malaysian mobile phone operators from five to three.