Unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia fell to 10.1 percent in the first quarter, down from 11 percent at the end of last year. The rate reached 5.1 percent for male citizens and 20.2 percent for females, according to new data released by the General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT) on Thursday.

According to Bloomberg, the unemployment rate fell to the lowest since 2008 as the economy improved due to surging oil prices.

The economy of the OPEC’s biggest oil producer expanded by 9.9 percent in Q1-2022, its fastest in a decade. Non-oil activity activities rose over 20 percent y-o-y. The World Bank estimates Saudi Arabia GDP to grow at 7 percent this year.

Labour force participation by women expanded strongly in the first quarter of 2022, continuing a recent trend that followed unprecedented reforms in laws and regulations relating to them.

Data showed labor force participation rate of the total female working age population rose over 13 percentage points (pp) to 33.6 percent during the first quarter of 2022.

The employment-to-population ratio for Saudi women rose by 12.8 pp to 26.8 percent in Q1/2022. This has led to a decrease in the unemployment rate of Saudi women from 31.7 percent three years ago, to 21.2 percent a year ago, to 20.2 percent in Q1/2022, said GASTAT.

Since 2018, Saudi Arabia has allowed its female population to drive, refuse or consent to medical procedures, live alone, work outside the home and travel without the permission of a male guardian.

Meanwhile, the labour force participation rate for Saudi males increased 2.7 pp from Q1/2019 to 66 percent in Q1/2022.

Among Saudi youth aged 15-24, the unemployment rate in Q1/2022 was 15 percent, marginally down y-o-y.

(Reporting by Brinda Darasha; editing by Seban Scaria)