The ministry had predicted quarter-on-quarter expansion of a mere 0.1 percent based on two months of data.

But growth was lifted by strong performance in the manufacturing sector, which expanded 11.9 percent quarter-on-quarter in the three months to March and 9.8 percent year-on-year.

On a year-on-year basis, the ministry said the city-state's trade-reliant economy expanded 4.9 percent in the first quarter.

Growth in other sectors including finance and construction also helped boost the figure.

The ministry maintained the official 2014 economic growth forecast at 2.0-4.0 percent, a pace it described as "modest".

"In tandem with the gradual improvement in the global economy, externally-oriented sectors such as manufacturing and wholesale trade are likely to provide support to growth," it said.

But it said that "tightness in the labour market" would weigh on growth in some labour-intensive sectors, as some employers struggle to fill jobs.

The government has tightened rules on the hiring of foreign professional workers following protests and online complaints about the large number of foreigners in the affluent city-state of 5.4 million people.