Saudi private sector growth stable in April, employment subdued: PMI

FILE PHOTO: Cars drive past the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh
FILE PHOTO: Cars drive past the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 18, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo

May 5, 2019

DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s non-oil private sector growth remained steady – though unchanged – in April, but strong demand and increased business confidence did not translate into job creation, a monthly survey of companies showed on Sunday.

The seasonally adjusted Emirates NBD Saudi Arabia Purchasing Managers’ Index remained unchanged month on month at 56.8 in April. A reading above 50 indicates expansion and below that contraction.

The Saudi private sector struggled last year because of fuel price hikes, the introduction of a 5 percent value-added tax and higher fees for hiring foreign workers.

But private sector growth picked up pace this year. It rose to a 13-month high in January and continued to gain momentum — though only marginally — through February and March.

“The headline PMI was unchanged at 56.8 last month. Output and new order growth remained firm, but there has been no meaningful growth in private sector employment over the last three months,” said Khatija Haque, head of MENA research at Emirates NBD.

The output sub-index rose to 61.2, the highest since December 2017, while new order growth remained strong, at 63.5, but two points below March levels.

The higher output in April was backed by stronger underlying demand and an associated rise in new business. Some 26 percent of surveyed businesses recorded an increase in output at their units, versus just 3 percent that recorded a contraction, according to the survey.

But the kingdom’s non-oil labor market was subdued, with the majority of firms keeping staffing numbers unchanged. Still, the employment sub-index rose slightly, to 50.1, from a contraction in March.

(Reporting by Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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