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Thai Q3 unemployment at 16-yr high as virus curbs squeeze economy

BANGKOK : Thailand's unemployment rate hit a more than 16-year high in the third quarter, as tougher coronavirus restrictions hit economic activity and jobs, the state planning agency said on Monday.

The curbs were eased from September, however, and the Southeast Asian country earlier this month reopened to vaccinated foreign visitors without quarantine requirements, in a bid to restart its important tourism sector.

The unemployment rate jumped to 2.25per cent in the September quarter, representing 870,000 workers without jobs, from 1.89per cent in the previous three months, the agency said in a statement.

The jobless rate was 2.52per cent in the first quarter of 2005.

Thailand's definition of unemployed is quite narrow, including only those who do not work a single hour in a surveyed week. It excludes owners of businesses or farms, while analysts note it does not catch the significant unofficial economy.

Earlier, the central bank said jobless numbers were expected at 3.4 million at the end of 2021.

In the third quarter, overall employment dropped 0.6per cent from a year earlier to 37.7 million workers, with the hotel/restaurant and construction sectors losing the most jobs, it said.

The strict COVID-19 measures had a significant impact on the labour market," Danucha Pichayanan, head of the National Economic and Social Development Council, told a news conference.

The easing of curbs and the reopening should increase employment in tourism, but the country will need more measures to help businesses with jobs, he said.

Last week, the planning agency predicted 200,000 foreign tourists this year, and 5 million visitors next year. That compared with 40 million foreign arrivals in 2019.

(Reporting by Orathai Sriring and Kitiphong Thaichareon; Editing by Martin Petty)

Source: Reuters