Unemployment rate falls to 2-year low
Thailand's unemployment rate dropped in the first quarter to its lowest level since the start of the pandemic, boosted by higher employment both in the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors, as the economy gradually recovers.
The government's planning unit, the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), yesterday reported that the unemployment rate dropped to 1.53% in the first quarter of this year, or 610,000 jobless, from 1.64% in the fourth quarter of 2021, or 632,000 jobless, and 2.25%, or 871,000 jobless, in the third quarter of last year.
The rate was the lowest since the 1.03% recorded in the first quarter of 2020, before the economy was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The total workforce in the first quarter stood at 39.6 million, up 2.3% from 38.7 million in the same quarter of 2021. Of the total, 38.7 million were employed, up 3% from 37.5 million in 2020.
According to Danucha Pichayanan, the NESDC's secretary-general, employment in the first quarter rose in both the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors.
The agricultural sector employed 11.4 million workers, a 3% increase due to increased production of agricultural products in key crops, while the non-farm sector employed 27.3 million people, a 3% increase.
Mr Danucha noted there were some issues that needed to be monitored, including the number of unemployed people who had never worked before, which has risen to 260,000 people, a 5.2% increase over the first quarter of last year.
Long-term unemployment has also continued to rise, with the figures estimated at 174,000 in the quarter, up from 130,000 people in the previous quarter. Unemployment among highly educated workers remained high, with tertiary graduates accounting for 3.1% of the unemployed, or 225,000 people.
"The issues that should be monitored in the remaining seven months include the fragile global economy which still faces a spate of risks, especially from the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and supply chain disruption caused by China's zero-Covid policy," said Mr Danucha. "The number of foreign tourists remains low in comparison to before Covid-19. Although Thai tourists continue to increase, boosted by the government's tourism stimulus programme, the expenditure proportion is still insufficient to compensate for the loss of revenue from foreign tourists. As a result, it is critical to focus on opening up the country and attracting as many foreign tourists as possible."
Mr Danucha said the impact of rising commodity prices on labour costs and employment needs to be closely monitored, with inflation having increased since late 2021 due to oil price rises and increases in the cost of some production factors. Higher fertiliser prices may also have an impact on agricultural employment and transportation sector employment as a result of rising oil prices, he said.
In a related development, the NESDC reported yesterday that the growth of household debt slowed in the fourth quarter, standing at 14.5 trillion baht, an increase of 3.9%, from 4.2% in the previous quarter. Real estate loans expanded at a slower rate, increasing by 5%, from 5.8% in the previous quarter. Business loans increased by 6.5%, from 7.6% in the preceding quarter.
Non-performing loans in terms of consumer debt amounted to 143 billion baht, accounting for 2.73% of total loans. It was a decrease of 0.5% from the same period last year and fell by 4.0% from the previous quarter.