Unemployment rates in South Africa’s major metros

As South Africans get ready to head to the polls on 1 November for the local government elections, much of the focus will be on the country’s record-high unemployment rate.

Statistics South Africa’slatest Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QFLS) for Q2 2021, published at the end of August, shows the country’s unemployment rate now sits at 34.4% in the second quarter of 2021.

The expanded definition of unemployment – which includes discouraged job seekers – shows that the country’s actual unemployment rate is closer to 44.4%.

However, this national data is not wholly representative of South Africa’s unemployment crisis, with parts of the country showing unemployment rates significantly above and below this average.

While the Eastern Cape’s provincial unemployment rate sits at 47.1%, the province’s unemployment rate in non-metro areas sits at 53%. Similar trends are seen in the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, where unemployment is four to five percentage points higher outside of the cities.

By comparison, unemployment in Gauteng and the Western Cape’s non-metro areas is lower than in the cities – likely due to semigration, which drives job seekers from other parts of the country into major cities.

The below tables outline the official unemployment rate across South Africa’s major metropoles for Q2 2021 (April-June). This includes the number of employed compared to the total population – known as the employment ‘absorption’ rate.

The table also includes the city’s ‘labour force participation rate’, which is the proportion of the working-age population that is employed.


Mangaung

Unemployment rate Employed/population ratio (absorption) Labour force participation rate
23.0% 42% 54.5%

eThekwini

Unemployment rate Employed/population ratio (absorption) Labour force participation rate
26.0% 42.7% 57.7%

Cape Town

Unemployment rate Employed/population ratio (absorption) Labour force participation rate
27.6% 47.4% 65.5%

Buffalo City

Unemployment rate Employed/population ratio (absorption) Labour force participation rate
32.6% 40.4% 59.9%

Ekurhuleni

Unemployment rate Employed/population ratio (absorption) Labour force participation rate
33.1% 44.7% 66.8%

Tshwane

Unemployment rate Employed/population ratio (absorption) Labour force participation rate
35.8% 46.2% 72%

City of Johannesburg

Unemployment rate Employed/population ratio (absorption) Labour force participation rate
37.3% 42.9% 68.5%

Nelson Mandela Bay

Unemployment rate Employed/population ratio (absorption) Labour force participation rate
39.8% 39.2% 65.2%

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Unemployment rates in South Africa’s major metros