SA's unemployment rate hits record 34.4%

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The official unemployment rate is now 34.4%.
The official unemployment rate is now 34.4%.
  • The official unemployment rate is at a record of 34.4%, or 7.8 million jobless people, according to Stats SA.
  • Trends show that unemployment is concentrated among the youth and the black African population.
  • The labour market is also more favourable to men than  women.

Unemployment has hit a record high of 34.4%, or 7.8 million jobless people.

Stats SA released the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the second quarter on Tuesday. This is the highest unemployment rate recorded since the survey started in 2008.

The unemployment rate was previously 32.6%, and the number of jobless people was 7.2 million.

The expanded definition of unemployment - which accounts for those discouraged from seeking work - has increased 1.2 percentage points to 44.4%. 

In its presentation, Stats SA highlighted that the Eastern Cape recorded the highest unemployment rate. The official unemployment rate for the province is at 47.1%, while the expanded unemployment rate is at 53%.

Formal sector employment - which accounts for 68.3% of total employment - saw a loss of 375 000 jobs during the quarter. However, employment in the informal sector, private households and agriculture increased.

"Some industries created jobs while others lost jobs between quarter one 2021 [of] and quarter two [of] 2021, resulting in a net decline of 54 000 in total employment," Stats SA noted.

Industries which recorded jobs growth include construction, trade and transport, while finance, community and social services and manufacturing recorded job losses.

Other trends show that unemployment was lower for graduates, compared to those individuals who only have matric or less than matric. The black African population also has a higher rate of unemployment (38.2%) than the national average and that of other population groups, Stats SA said.

"Black African women are the most vulnerable with an unemployment rate of 41%."

Stats SA highlighted that the labour market is more favourable to men than it is to women. The official unemployment rate for women was 36.8%, compared to 32.4% for men.

"Men are more likely to be in paid employment than women, regardless of race," it said. 

Unemployment continues to burden the youth. Nearly two-thirds (64.4%) of those aged 15 to 24 are unemployed, and 42.9% of those aged 25 to 34 are unemployed.

Covid-19 trends

Stats SA showed that of those expected to work during lockdown, 91% continued to receive pay and 12.8% received reduced salaries. Nine in ten graduates received their full salaries during the second quarter.

Last week, during a briefing on the economic outlook to the Parliament's Standing Committee on  Finance, SA Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago noted that the recovery in employment levels following the pandemic was lagging behind the GDP recovery - this after the economy suffered a -7% contraction in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated lockdown.

Kganyago, however, pointed out that earnings had returned to pre-pandemic levels.

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