SA unemployment rate falls to 34.5%

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  • South Africa's official unemployment rate declined to 34.5% in the first quarter of 2022.
  • According to the latest data, an estimated 370 000 jobs were gained between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022. 
  • There is concern about the quality of employment data in SA, which has been collected via telephone since 2020. The latest quarterly numbers primarily used face-to-face interviews though.

The official unemployment rate retreated from a record high of 35.3% in the fourth quarter of 2021 to 34.5% in the first quarter of 2022, Statistics SA reported on Monday.

For the second quarter in a row, the expanded unemployment rate - which includes discouraged work seekers who have given up looking for work – declined. It fell from 46.2% to 45.5%.

Unemployment rate. Source: Statistics SA

According to the latest data, an estimated 370 000 jobs were gained between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022. The biggest job gains were recorded in community and social services, manufacturing and trade, while there were job losses in private households, finance, construction and agriculture.

Unemployment was highest among those aged 15 to 24 years (63.9%) and 25 to 34 years (42.1%). 

Some 3.8 million out of 10.2 million people aged 15 to 24 years were not in employment, education or training (NEET). The overall NEET rate increased by 4.6 percentage points in the past year.

The percentage of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET). Source: Statistics SA

How reliable is the unemployment rate?

The latest set of Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) numbers is published amid growing concern about the reliability of South Africa’s employment data.

READ | SA's unemployment stats could be wrong, say experts

Statistics SA is meant to collect data on the employment status of 33 000 households – which is extrapolated to determine the jobless rates for around 40 million adults in the country.

Fin24 previously reported that the head of the Statistics Council, the advisory board to Statistics SA, raised the alarm about the quality of the unemployment data, and called an urgent meeting of the council following the last QLFS release.

In March 2020, Statistics SA stopped face-to-face interviews of households as a result of the pandemic, and switched to telephone interviews, which reached far fewer people. In the final quarter of 2021, only 14 242 households were interviewed for the QLFS. In Gauteng, only 23% of respondents replied, with the response rate in Johannesburg of 17.9%. 

For the latest set of results, employment data collection was mainly conducted using face-to-face interviewing. On Monday, Statistics SA said there was an improvement in its response rate as a result. 

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