South Africa unemployment rate hits new record high

 ·24 Aug 2021

Stats SA has published its latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QFLS) for the second quarter of  2021, showing the country’s unemployment rate has risen to another record high.

The results show that the number of employed persons decreased by 54,000 in the second quarter of 2021 to 14.9 million. The number of unemployed persons increased by 584,000 to 7.8 million compared to the first quarter of 2021, Stats SA said.

The number of discouraged work-seekers increased by 186,000 (5.9%) and the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement decreased by 571,000 (4.5%) between the two quarters resulting in a net decrease of 386,000 in the not economically active population.

These changes resulted in the official unemployment rate increasing by 1.8 percentage points from 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021 to 34.4% in the second quarter of 2021 – the highest since the start of the QLFS in 2008.

The unemployment rate according to the expanded definition of unemployment increased by 1.2 percentage points to 44.4% in quarter 2 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2021.

To better understand the observed large changes in the key labour market indicators between Q1: 2021 and Q2: 2021, Stats SA said that special tabulations were done to study movements between labour market status categories.

It was observed that a large number of persons moved from the “employed” status and “not economically active” to “unemployed” categories between the two quarters, which resulted in an increase of 1.8 percentage points in the unemployment rate to 34.4%.

However, the labour force participation rate was also higher in Q2: 2021 as compared to Q1: 2021 as a result of these movements – increasing by 1.1 percentage points to 57.5%, Stats SA said.

The absorption rate decreased by 0.3 of a percentage point to 37.7% in the second quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2021.


The number of employed persons decreased in three of the 10 industries, with the largest decrease recorded in finance (278,000), followed by community and social services (166,000) and manufacturing (83,000).

The largest increases in employment were recorded in construction (143,000) and trade (108,000).

Compared to the same period last year, a net increase of 793,000 in total employment in Q2: 2021 was largely due to gains in the number of people employed in the private households (189,000), community and social services (157,000), construction (156,000) and trade (140,000) industries.

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