Jobs in the formal non-agricultural sector decreased by 9,000 in the first quarter of 2021, the Q1 Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) from StatsSA shows.
This brings the total number of persons employed in the formal non-agricultural sector in South Africa to approximately 9.64 million.
In a microcosm, this drop is not as significant as previous quarters, but it should be read alongside other economic data which shows that the country has continued to haemorrhage jobs over the last year.
The year-on-year figures from the Quarterly Employment Statistics survey, released by Stats SA show that formal sector jobs decreased by 552,000 in the first quarter.
The jobs that were cut
While total employment decreased by 9,000 or (-0.1%) quarter-on-quarter, the data shows that some sectors were hit significantly harder than others.
The trade and business services industries shed 40,000 and 19,000 jobs respectively, while construction (-5,000), and electricity (-1,000) also saw drops.
The decreases were offset by increases reported in the community services industry (+47,000), mining (+5,000) and manufacturing (4,000).
As mentioned above, the contraction in jobs between March 2020 and March 2021 was much bleaker, with total employment falling by 552,000 or (-5.4%).
Business services (-192,000), trade (-162,000) and manufacturing (-95,000) were the industries that saw the biggest cuts over the last year.
Full-time employment followed a similar trend as total employment with a decrease of 63,000 or (-0.7%) quarter-on-quarter, from 8,629,000 in December 2020 to 8,566,000 in March 2021.
Part-time employment increased by 54,000 or (5,3%) quarter-on-quarter, from 1,024,000 in December 2020 to 1,078,000 in March 2021.
Experts have warned that it may take some time for the economy to reintegrate these lost jobs.
“Meaningful job creation will probably only resume once corporate profitability has been restored and balance sheets have been strengthened,” Nedbank said in a research note at the start of June.
“Government can best boost labour market prospects by speeding up vaccination rates, which would go a long way in helping to improve the conditions in labour-intensive industries such as hospitality and tourism.”
Worryingly, however, the absorption and labour force participation rates have been on a declining trend for the past two quarters, it said.
The labour force participation rate is the proportion of the working-age population that is either employed or unemployed. The absorption rate is the proportion of the working-age population that is employed.
“Added to this, the number of unemployed and discouraged work-seekers remains high – so even if employment were to increase, the unemployment rate is likely to remain structurally high over the medium term.”