Unemployment records Q3 increase

Unemployment records Q3 increase

Office workers cross a pedestrian bridge in the Siam area. The NESDC reported unemployment of 1.04% in the third quarter. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Office workers cross a pedestrian bridge in the Siam area. The NESDC reported unemployment of 1.04% in the third quarter. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The unemployment rate in the third quarter edged up from the same period last year and the previous quarter because of a slowing economy, floods in the Northeast and drought in some parts of the country.

The government's planning unit, the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), reported on Monday the unemployment rate was 1.04% of the total workforce, or 394,000 people.

That is an uptick from 0.96% the same period of 2018, or 373,000 people.

On a quarterly basis, the rate edged up from 0.98%, or 377,000 people, in the second quarter.

In the third quarter, the workforce totalled 37.95 million, down 2.0% year-on-year. Of the total workforce, 37.48 million were employed in the third quarter, down 2.1% from the same period last year.

In the third quarter, the NESDC reported employment in the agricultural sector fell by 1.8%, the third straight quarter with a drop for the segment, attributed to inclement weather.

Employment in non-agricultural sectors also decreased by 2.3% because of the economic slowdown and the decline in exports.

Sectors that had lower employment included manufacturing, wholesale/retail, and construction, which decreased by 5.2, 4.1 and 2.2%, respectively.

Employment in the hotel/restaurant sector and the transport/storage sector increased by 3.1 and 1.0%, respectively, as a result of the expansion of the number of tourists.

Even as employment dropped, the average number of working hours was flat from the third quarter of 2018.

The number of working hours increased by 0.4% because of adjustment from firms that reduced overtime hours and adjusted employment for labourers with low productivity. As a result, the average working hours in all sectors did not change much.

Overall wages slightly increased to 14,334 baht/month while the average wage for the private sector was equal to 12,847 baht/month which accounted for 1.8 and 2.5% increases, respectively.

When deducting inflation at 0.6%, real wages of the private sector increased by 1.9%. Labour productivity (GDP per worker) had a value of 69,329 baht per person, an increase of 4.6%.

"The main reason for the higher unemployment rate in the third quarter stems largely from the country's economic slowdown and natural disasters such as floods in the Northeast and drought in some areas of the country," said Thosaporn Sirisamphand, secretary-general of the NESDC.

"The entry of new graduates into the labour market is another key factor."

Mr Thosaporn insisted the economic slowdown has not shown much impact on the labour market, citing a survey from October showed the unemployment rate was still low at 0.9% of the total workforce, equivalent to 355,000 unemployed.

The agency has kept a close watch on employment conditions as there has been a continuous increase in the number of unemployment benefit applicants, falling domestic and foreign purchase orders, a reduction of overtime hours, and an increase in firms requesting to use Section 75 of the Labor Protection Act to allow them to temporarily stop working, said Mr Thosaporn.

In the third quarter, 172,000 people or 1.5% of the total number of insured persons, applied for unemployment benefits, the highest since the economic crisis in 2009, which accounted for 2.2% of the total at that time.

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