Numbers on the Penang Economy and Labour Force

Penang’s gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita GDP have been growing steadily from 2012 to 2017, with average annual growth rates of 5.9% and 6.1% respectively (Table 1). Since 2012, Penang has outperformed Malaysia in terms of economic growth, except in 2017; this was due to the strong economic performance of Selangor and KL, which boosted the overall national performance.

Over these six years, Penang has consistently contributed about 6.5% to the national GDP (Table 1). In 2017 the services and manufacturing sectors were the two major contributors to Penang’s GDP, which accounted for 49.3% and 44.8% respectively (Table 2).


The value of exports and imports for both Penang and Malaysia has been increasing since 2012. Specifically in 2017, Penang’s external trade increased drastically by 19.5%, registering a total of RM430bil (Table 3) in trade due to substantial growth in the export and import of machinery and transport equipment. Throughout January to October 2018, Penang contributed 29% to total exports, ranking first, while contributing 22% to total imports, trailing behind Selangor (40%) and Johor (26%) (Figure 1).

Penang Labour Statistics

The labour force participation rate in Penang decreased by 1.0% in Q4 2017 to 68.6%, compared to 69.3% in Q4 2016 (Table 4). On the other hand, the unemployment rate in Penang has consistently been lower than the national rate. In Q4 2017 Penang’s unemployment rate stayed constant at 2.3% relative to the previous year (Figure 2). Among the employed persons, the largest cohort of workforce, standing at 58%, has secondary level as their highest level of educational attainment. Meanwhile, approximately one-third of the state’s workforce is tertiary educated (Figure 3).

Over the past five years, the median and mean monthly income of Penang’s employees has grown by 7.6% and 6.6% per annum respectively. Median income reached RM2,160 while mean income was RM2,672 in 2017 (Figure 4). However, Penang’s mean and median salaries and wages have been equal to or under national figures since 2013.

Household Income

The median monthly household income in Penang was higher than Malaysia from 2012-2016. It then increased by 7.6% per annum from RM4,039 in 2012 to RM5,409 in 2016 (Table 5). The household income of north-east and south-west districts remained above the overall state’s household income. In 2016 the median household income within the north-east district showed the highest average growth rate of 9.4%, reaching RM5,964, making it the top among all districts (Table 6).






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