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Job creation hits five-year high in Saudi non-oil sector

Travellers buy coffee at Jeddah airport. Non-oil business activity is rising in Saudi Arabia Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/Sipa USA
Travellers buy coffee at Jeddah airport. Non-oil business activity is rising in Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi Arabia PMI records headline figure of 56.9 in December
  • Uplift in employment driven by increase in new orders
  • Non-oil companies report marked rise in orders from abroad

Employment at non-oil companies in Saudi Arabia reached its strongest level for five years in December, as business activity and demand from overseas increased.

The latest Riyad Bank Saudi Arabia Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), published on Tuesday, recorded a headline figure of 56.9 for December.

Although this was down from 58.5 in November, companies said they “maintained a broadly positive view” going into 2023. Any figure above 50 indicates economic expansion.

“Job creation in the non-oil sector has never been this strong in almost five years. This is attributed to the ongoing reforms that support the private sector under the Saudi Vision 2030,” said Naif Al Ghaith, chief economist at Riyad Bank.

“We see operating conditions remaining favourable in December, characterised by rapid growth in the non-oil activities and a robust labour market by the end of 2022, with both jobs and wages having far more momentum than previously thought.”

The growth in employment is based on a rise in new orders: 30 percent of the firms surveyed for the Saudi Arabia PMI said orders had increased month-on-month.

The upturn was most evident among service providers, while non-oil companies across the board reported a rise in orders from abroad, especially from other Gulf countries.

“The increase in staffing capacity helped companies to lower outstanding work for the seventh month running, although the rate of reduction was the softest since June,” the December report added.

The December PMI figures come as the kingdom’s General Authority for Statistics reports that the number of Saudi nationals participating in the labour market rose to 52.5 percent in the third quarter of 2022, up from 49.8 percent in the same period in 2021.

More than 60 percent of Saudi nationals are under the age of 35 and job creation is a top priority for Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and the Vision 2030 plan.

Unemployment among Saudi citizens edged up by 0.2 percentage points quarter-on-quarter, but the Q3 figure of 9.9 percent was still lower than the 11.3 percent recorded in the same period of 2021.

In the third quarter, the kingdom’s real GDP was up 8.8 percent year-on-year, on higher oil activities, it is no surprise that a report in August found that Saudi Arabia continues to offer the highest expatriate salaries in the world.

Expat salaries in Saudi Arabia rose 11 percent year-on-year in 2021 to an average of $188,000 for middle management roles, according to the annual MyExpatriate Market Pay Survey.

The report, by London-based research firm ECA International, tracked salary changes in 41 major economies and found that the kingdom continues to dominate the list.

Riyad Bank’s Al Ghaith added: “December data points to a continuous growth for the fourth quarter with optimism on the upcoming year. This made us comfortability project growth of non-oil GDP to exceed 4 percent in 2023.”