* Q1 official jobless rate at 1.53%, lowest since pandemic
* Employment rises 3% in Q1 y/y
* Definition of jobless remains narrow
* Rate expected to fall further in months ahead (Recasts, adds details throughout, comment from official)
BANGKOK, May 23 (Reuters) - Thailand’s official unemployment rate in the first quarter declined to its lowest level since the pandemic and the trend should continue as restrictions ease and foreign tourists return, the state planning agency said on Monday.
The Southeast Asian country has relaxed most of its restrictions as infections decline and will lift curbs on nightlife from June to try to revive its vital tourism sector.
Thailand’s official unemployment rate dropped to 1.53% in the March quarter, representing 610,000 jobless workers, from 1.64% the previous quarter, the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) data showed.
That was the lowest since the 1.03% recorded in the first quarter of 2020, before the economy felt the full impacts of the pandemic.
Thailand’s definition of unemployed is narrow, however, and only counts as jobless those who do not work a single hour in a surveyed week.
It also excludes owners of businesses or farms and analysts say the figures do not catch Thailand’s significant unofficial economy.
In January-March, employment increased 3% from a year earlier, with higher farm and non-farm jobs, the agency said.
The jobless rate is likely to fall further but whether it will return to pre-pandemic levels this year remains a question due to risks, NESDC head Danucha Pichayanan told a news conference.
“The world economy is still volatile. The Russia-Ukraine situation is ongoing, and supply chain disruptions are starting to affect domestic manufacturing,” he said. (Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon and Orathai Sriring; Editing by Martin Petty)
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