EMPLOYMENT and average income rose slightly in the first quarter with the exception of jobs in the agricultural sector because of severe drought, according to a report by the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) on the social situation in the first three months and outlook for the rest of the year.
However, the number of jobs in the agricultural sector dropped by 2.7 per cent because of severe drought, while employment in the non-agricultural sector rose by 1.5 per cent on economic expansion, especially in the manufacturing, construction, transport and tourism sectors.
The number of the unemployed stood at 369,893 in the first quarter, resulting in an unemployment rate of 0.97 per cent, versus 0.94 per cent in the first quarter last year.
Currently, among the key labour- and employment-related issues needed to be monitored are the drought and slow global economic growth, especially in neighbouring countries and in China. These negative factors are believed to have had an impact on Thai exports, especially from labour-intensive sectors such as cassava, rubber, and textiles.
The drought last year caused a 3.8-per-cent contraction in agricultural value-added, with the farm production index dropping from 119.9 in March 2014 to 113.65 in March this year. Accordingly, employment in the agricultural sector declined by more than 460,000 workers.
The government has launched several measures to tackle the problems of drought with the focus on a long-term solution through technical improvements in farm production.
The growth rate of household debt this year is expected to decline, judging from the slow growth in outstanding loans of commercial banks in the first quarter as financial institutions tightened lending.
Last year, the average income of households was Bt26,915 per month, up 3.4 per cent year on year, while expenses were Bt21.157 per household per month, up 5.4 per cent.
In 2015, the average debt per household was Bt156,770, down 2 per cent, compared with an increase of 10 per cent year on year in 2013, thanks to stricter policy on loans among commercial banks and government measures to tackle household debt.