DUBAI (Reuters) - Unemployment in Saudi Arabia declined only marginally to 11.3% in the second quarter from 11.7% in the first three months of the year, official data showed on Thursday, signalling that recovery from the coronavirus crisis has lost some momentum.
Saudi Arabia has been pushing through economic reforms since 2016 to create millions of jobs and aims to reduce unemployment to 7% by 2030, but those plans were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic that sent oil prices plummeting.
Unemployment hit a record high of 15.4% in the second quarter last year but it has declined rapidly since then, reaching pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter this year.
The pace of decline slowed down in the second quarter, however, data from the General Authority for Statistics showed on Thursday, while a business survey this month pointed to a sharp drop in output expansion in the private sector.
Unemployment among Saudi women increased to 22.3% in Q2 from 21.2% the previous quarter, the statistics authority said.
Total labour force participation, for Saudis and non-Saudis, was 60.8% in the second quarter, down from 61.1% in the first three months of the year.
The Saudi economy shrank 4.1% in 2020, hit by lower crude prices and coronavirus-related restrictions that impacted its nascent non-oil economic sectors.
Ratings agency S&P Globl Ratings said this week it expects growth to average 2.4% between 2021 and 2024.
Reporting by Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Nick Macfie