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Saudi unemployment falls to 9.7% in Q2

DUBAI, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Unemployment in Saudi Arabia among citizens fell to 9.7% in the second quarter of 2022, reflecting a downward trend in joblessness among Saudis that is a key objective of the crown prince's plans to transform the economy.

The rate of joblessness among citizens fell from 11.3% in the second quarter of 2021, and eased 0.4 percentage points quarter on quarter according to data from the General Authority for Statistics published on Thursday. Overall unemployment in the kingdom stood at 5.8% in Q2, down from 6.6% a year earlier.

Job creation, especially for Saudi nationals, over 60% of whom are under 35, is a top priority for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the country's sweeping Vision 2030 agenda to diversify the economy away from oil.

A wide-ranging programme of privatisations and development of mega projects across the kingdom combined with surging GDP growth on higher oil prices have supported the expansion of the Saudi labour market. GDP soared 12.2% in Q2, beating estimates.

Workforce participation among female citizens is also on the rise; unemployment in this category fell to 19.3% in Q2, down from 22.3% in the year-ago period, making up almost 36% of the Saudi labour force.

Major sectors that have recorded growth in jobs for Saudis include technology and communications, tourism and logistics, in line with Vision 2030 objectives to grow non-oil sectors of the economy.

Challenges remain however: at almost 10%, unemployment among citizens remains high, especially outside the main cities, amid rising living costs.

Employment opportunities also partly depend on the government's ability to attract large sums of foreign investment, including into Vision 2030 projects. (Reporting by Rachna Uppal Editing by Frances Kerry and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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