SA employment outlook still at record low - but load shedding means energy companies are hiring

SA's outlook for job seekers is still at its lowest in five years, according to a survey among 750 employers – but while ongoing load shedding is taking its toll on the economy, it's also sparking job creation in the alternative power generation sector.

This is according to the latest ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey for the second quarter of 2020.

Last quarter, the survey found that South Africa's hiring outlook had hit a five-year low. This quarter's results found that the outlook was largely unchanged, without taking the economic impact of coronavirus into account. 

READ SA jobs outlook weakest in 5 years – here's where you're most (and least) likely to get hired

Globally, the survey is conducted among 58 000 participants in 43 countries and territories. In South Africa, it is conducted across five regions, namely the Western Cape, Gauteng, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State.

According to the survey, hiring plans remain "relatively stable" compared to the previous quarter, but show a decline by three percentage points in comparison to the same period last year.

Little movement

While 8% of employers forecast an increase in payrolls, 5% anticipate a decrease and 85% expect to make no changes.

The previous quarter found that while 10% of employers forecast an increase in payrolls, 8% anticipated a decrease and another 1% weren't sure.

Once the data for Q2 was adjusted to allow for seasonal variation, the overall outlook for South Africa stood at +2%, the same as the previous quarter.

"As we enter into the second quarter of 2020, the South African economy continues to be affected by subdued economic growth and a sluggish growth outlook.

"Local businesses remain concerned about policy uncertainty, high unemployment rates, and continued load shedding. These factors are causing employers to proceed cautiously when it comes to their spending and hiring strategies.

"Further, while it is too early to predict the potential impact of Covid-19 on global hiring, the reality today is that unemployment remains low in many markets and organisations globally are still struggling to find people with the right skills," said Lyndy van den Barselaar, Managing Director of ManpowerGroup SA. 

Where the jobs are

The survey was conducted between 6 and 28 January, before the global spread of the coronavirus took hold, the survey authors noted.

The group found that that opportunities for job seekers were expected to be strongest in the manufacturing and construction sectors. Moreover, the survey found, Eskom's continued woes have meant jobs are being created among alternative power producers.

"Alternative power generation has also been pushed to the forefront in South Africa, as a result of continued load shedding. This, alongside several large infrastructure investments that have been made or are in the pipeline, is expected to stimulate considerable economic investment, in turn growing employment in these areas," said Van den Barselalaar.

Finance & Business Services sector employers reported the most noteworthy decline of 11 percentage points.

At a provincial level, employers in KwaZulu-Natal reported the strongest hiring intentions, with prospects for job seekers being poorest in the Eastern Cape.

* Compiled by Marelise van der Merwe

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