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Looking out into 2021, while there is still a considerable degree of uncertainty as a result of the prevalence of COVID-19 and its potential impact on the non-oil economy, we nevertheless expect a broad-based recovery. Our forecast assumes between 15-20 percent of the adult population being vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-2021, and 70 percent by year end. As such, we see a quarter-on-quarter improvement in the Saudi non-oil economy, with this recovery being more vigorous in the second half of 2021.
The General Authority for Statistics’ (GaStat) latest labor market release shows that unemployment declined to 11.3 percent in Q2 2021, down from 11.7 percent in Q1.
Global oil demand grew by a healthy 6 percent year-on-year, or 5.6 million barrels per day (mbpd) last year, to an average of 96.6 mbpd. Looking ahead, whilst near-term Omicron related risks remain, so far, the response from governments around the world to surging cases have not been as severe as previous variants. Overall in full year 2022, oil demand is expected to rise by 4 percent year-on-year, to an all time high of 100.8 mbpd.
Brent oil prices averaged $74 per barrel (pb) during Q3 2021, up 7 percent quarter-on-quarter, and 71 percent over the same period last year. Brent oil’s rally has continued into Q4, with the benchmark rising a further 10 percent over September levels. Whilst some supply issues in the US Gulf have contributed to the uplift in prices over the last couple of months, the rally has mainly been a result of rising oil demand.
According to OPEC data, Q2 2021 oil demand rose by 3 percent quarter-on-quarter and a sizable 14 percent year-on-year. The outlook for the remainder of the year is consistent with previous estimates, with oil demand expected to keep growing quarter-on-quarter in Q3 and Q4 2021. Overall, only transportation fuels (jet fuel and gasoline) are showing sizable differences in demand when compared to pre-pandemic levels.