Saudi unemployment falls in first quarter, but before coronavirus impact

DUBAI (Reuters) - Unemployment among Saudi Arabian citizens in the first quarter fell below 12% for the first time in four years, official figures released on Tuesday showed, but they did not capture the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Unemployment fell to 11.8% from 12% the previous quarter, the General Authority for Statistics said.

“Data in these statistics do not yet reflect the impact of COVID-19 crisis as they were collected early in the first quarter,” it said in a statement.

Saudi economic reforms launched in 2016 aimed to create millions of jobs and reduce the unemployment rate to 7% by 2030.

But the new coronavirus outbreak has hit the kingdom hard and its impact on oil demand and oil prices has eaten into state revenues.

Business conditions in the non-oil private sector also deteriorated, worsening for the fourth straight month in June as measures to contain the coronavirus eroded consumer demand, a survey showed on Sunday.

Employment in the private sector in June fell at a record pace as firms shed jobs to reduce costs.

Reporting by Shakeel Ahmad; Writing by Yousef Saba and Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Barbara Lewis