Figures recently released by the Abu Dhabi Statistics Centre (Scad) show that 1.5 per cent of expatriates living in the city are out of work.
The 2012 statistical yearbook found that 15,600 Abu Dhabi citizens were also jobless, but it is the number of expats that is surprising, reports The National.
Expats need to have a work visa or be sponsored in order to live in the city, but some are staying illegally, while others are on visit visas while they look for a job.
Talal Dibajeh, owner of Al Mansouri recruitment agency, said: "To have a residency visa to work they must have a sponsor, one that is responsible for them, with a contract. Otherwise they would be working illegally."
Recent changes made to the labour laws in the country have made it easier for qualified professionals to move between jobs without a work ban.
According to the statistics, the majority of the people who are without work hold some sort of higher education degree.
Among expatriates without work, two in five have a degree at university level or higher with one in four nationals holding an equivalent qualification.
Ezzat Abu Hassan, group business development manager at Sawaeed employment, said: "It is only the labourers that must go back to their country once their job here is done."
He said he had expected the unemployment figures to be high and thought this trend would continue next year with the numbers without work increasing further.
Mr Abu Hassan said: "We are talking about qualified people, they are educated and have families."
Abu Dhabi has long been seen as a good destination for expats due to a large number of jobs and the relatively family-friendly atmosphere in contrast to nearby Dubai.
Add to this the fact that wages are tax-free and the city, which was once an outpost in the desert, became a popular place for expats to live.