The trouble with jobs in SA

2014-02-16 14:01

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

New labour stats present a rosier picture of the crisis years since 2008 and confound some economists, writes Dewald van Rensburg

This week’s labour statistics have confounded some economists with the apparently new phenomenon of “growth-less jobs” – a sharp rise in employment when every other economic indicator predicts the exact opposite.

According to Stats SA’s latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey, covering the last three months of last year, the ­country gained 653?000 jobs in 2013 and slightly lowered its ­unemployment rate from 24.5% to 24.1%.

The “expanded” unemployment rate that includes discouraged jobseekers actually fell to its lowest level since 2009, a ­still-horrifying 34%.

That is despite falling economic growth and a general ­expectation that the unemployment rate should be rising.

The new numbers have already been seized on by the ANC for bragging rights, with deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte this week stressing the record level of employment: 15.18?million.

The new figure was also one of the first things mentioned by President Jacob Zuma in his state of the nation speech on Thursday evening. “There are now 15 million people with jobs in the ­country, the highest ever in our history,” he said.

A part of the explanation is that Stats SA this week reviewed the past six years’ labour statistics in light of the 2011 census.

Thanks to the revision, South Africa has soundly beaten its old employment record from 2008.

While the new numbers do not fundamentally rewrite history, they do present a noticeably rosier picture of the crisis years since 2008 and also result in a much better job-creation scenario throughout 2013 than has been officially reported before.

The new revised estimate puts an extra 1.3?million people in the labour force, of whom a million are estimated to have jobs.

But the revision also adds more unemployed people.

The record for unemployment, using the expanded definition, was reached in the second quarter of 2013 and totalled 8.3?million unemployed and “discouraged” people against the old estimate of 7.98?million.

But this had also fallen dramatically by the end of the year to 7.8?million.

The net effect of the revision is to shave the expanded ­unemployment rate down by about half a percentage point for just about every quarter in the past six years.

Some economists were wary of the new stats.

This is “reminiscent of the precrisis boom”, said David Faulkner from HSBC Global Research. “We remain cautious about cheering the data, given the apparent inconsistency with other economic developments,” he continued.

Kevin Lings from Stanlib called it “clearly very impressive”, but also “at odds with recent anecdotal evidence”.

He also cited the possibility of “sampling error”, which is always present with surveys like the Quarterly Labour Force Survey.

Record employment

Before Stats SA’s revision the old employment record from 2008 stood at 14?027?000, a level equalled in the third quarter last year when jobs were estimated at 14?029?000.

In the new revised stats, the old record was higher at 14?769?000 and far surpassed by the third quarter last year when the revised estimate counts 15?036?000 jobs. Since then, employment has grown further.

Where are the jobs?

The estimated year-on-year gain in jobs of 653?000 is spread mostly across the service sectors, retail and the state with ­manufacturing continuing its long-term contraction.

This echoes the shift taking place since the old precrisis peak in employment in 2008 with “community services” becoming the major source of employment.

This category includes the state and its roughly 2?million ­employees at national, provincial and municipal levels, including universities.

It also includes private security, NGOs and public works ­programmes.

Since 2008, these jobs have increased by at least 22.5% to 3.47?million.

The other major source of jobs has been “financial services”, where jobs grew 15% since 2008 to 2.04?million.

The formal and informal trade sector has treaded water, ­shedding 3% of its jobs to now employ 3.2?million.

The only sector that lost lots of ground in the crisis and did not gain it back is manufacturing, which has shed 16% of its jobs to now employ 1.77?million.

Agriculture has also lost 11.5% of its jobs to employ 713?000 people at the end of 2013.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Senior PHP Developer

Cape Town
Mass Staffing Projects
R480 000 - R720 000 Per Year

Sales Representative

Cape Town
Pax Staffing Dynamix (Pty) Ltd
R8 000 - R25 000 Per Month

Mobile Developer

Cape Town
Goldman Tech Resourcing
R360 000 - R480 000 Per Year

Property [change area]

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.