South Africa’s unemployment rate climbs to 29.1%

 ·29 Oct 2019
SA unemployment

South Africa’s unemployment rate has again climbed in the third quarter of 2019, to 29.1% – its highest rate in over 16 years. The country’s unemployment rate last reached 28% in 2003.

According to Stats South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the quarter ended September 2019, the working-age population increased by 149,000 or 0.4% in the third quarter of 2019 compared to the second quarter of the same year.

Compared to Q3: 2018, the working-age population increased by 597,000 or 1.6%.

The number of employed persons increased by 62,000 to 16.4 million in Q3: 2019, but the number of unemployed persons also increased by 78,000 to 6.7 million compared to Q2: 2019, resulting in an increase of 141,000 in the number of people in the labour force.

The absorption rate remained constant at 42.4% while the unemployment and the labour force participation rates increased by 0.1 of a percentage point each to 29.1% and 59.9% respectively compared to the second quarter of 2019.

The largest employment increase was observed in the formal sector (43,000), followed by the agriculture and private household sectors with 38,000 and 35,000 respectively in Q3: 2019.

Employment in the informal sector, on the other hand, declined by 53,000 in Q3: 2019 compared to Q2: 2019.

The expanded unemployment rate is at 38.5%, unchanged from before, StatsSA said.


The number of discouraged work-seekers increased by 44,000 while the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement decreased by 35,000 between the second and the third quarters of 2019, resulting in a net increase of 9,000 in the not economically active population, Stats SA said.

Employment increased in five of the 10 occupations in Q3: 2019 compared to the previous quarter. The largest increase was observed in professional occupations (up by 122,000), followed by those in sales and services (up by 89,000) and elementary (up by 38,000) occupations.

Manager occupations (92,000) recorded the largest employment losses, followed by craft and related trade (45,000), plant and machine operator (43,000) and technician (41,000) occupations, while clerical occupations recorded the lowest decrease of 12,000 jobs.

Read: South African unemployment jumps to a 16-year high of 29%

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