Unemployment hits highest level in more than 11 years

 (Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)
(Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)

South Africa's unemployment rate has worsened to 29.1%, the highest level in more than 11 years.

Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke on Tuesday announced the findings of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the third quarter of 2019, at a briefing in Pretoria.

The unemployment rate increased 0.1 percentage point from the previous quarter to 29.1%. "This is the highest since the first quarter of 2008," Maluke said.

In the last 10 years the unemployment rate increased by 4.6 percentage points. In the last five years the unemployment rate rose by 3.7 percentage points and in the past year, unemployment rose by 1.5 percentage points.

Numerically, the working population is comprised of 38.6 million people. A total of 23.1 million are active in the labour force, while 6.7 million are unemployed and 15.5 million are not economically active.

Over the past quarter, the number of unemployment people grew by 78 000, while those in employment grew by only 62 000 people. The number of discouraged workers increased by 44 000 during the quarter.

Key takeaways

Further analysis on the figures show that the unemployment rate is highest (34.4%) for individuals with less than matric, compared to graduates with the lowest unemployment rate of 8.2%.

The youth - those aged between 15 and 24 years – remain the most "vulnerable" in the labour force with an unemployment rate at 58.2%. This contrasts with only 9.9% unemployment among those nearing retirement, aged between 55 to 64. Maluleke commented that this is nearly a 50 percentage point difference between the two age groups.

Most jobs (43 000) were created in the formal sector bringing the total formal sector number of jobs to 11.2 million. A total of 38 000 jobs were created in the agriculture sector alone, bringing the total number of jobs in that sector to 880 000. While in the informal sector jobs decreased by 53 000 to 3 million.

Trade, construction and agriculture industries have higher employment relative to the share of the GDP contribution, according to the StatsSA report. Employment gains were observed in the services, mining, agriculture and private households. Employment losses were mainly driven by manufacturing, construction, trade and utilities.

Black African women are the most vulnerable, facing an unemployment rate of 34.5%, compared to black men with an unemployment rate of 31.3%. The unemployment rate of coloured women stands at 23.7%, and that of coloured men is at 23.4%. The unemployment rate of Asian and Indian women is at 18.2% and that of their male counterparts is at 10.6%. The unemployment rate of white women stands at 8.1%, while only 6.8% of white men are unemployed. 

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