Unemployment rate rises in South Africa

 ·20 Feb 2024

It is bad news for South Africa’s unemployment sector as after eight consecutive increases, employment dropped by 22,000 in the last quarter of 2023, raising the official unemployment rate by 0.2 of a percentage to 32.1%.

The expanded unemployment rate decreased slightly by 0.1 of a percentage point to 41.1%.

This tallies the official unemployment rate at 7.9 million people, and the expanded unemployment rate at 11.7 million.

StatsSA highlighted in its presentation that the number of unemployed people in South Africa increased substantially over the last decade, from 4.8 million in Q4:2013 to 7.9 million in Q4:2023 (+3.1 million people).

While the number of employed has surpassed pre-Covid levels, it must be noted that the unemployment rate is still higher – the unemployment rate in Q1 2020 was 30.1% (2 percentage points lower), meaning job creation is still not keeping up with the number of people entering the workforce.

The numbers

In quarter 4 (October – December) 2023, the number of unemployed individuals has gone up by 46,000, reaching a total of 7.9 million, while the number of people not economically active due to reasons other than discouragement has increased by 218,000, totalling 13.4 million.

However, the number of discouraged work-seekers has decreased by 107,000 in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared to the third quarter of 2023.

This has resulted in a net increase of 111,000 in the population that is not economically active bracket.

The formal sector in South Africa accounts for 68,7% of total employment, however, jobs within the sector decreased by 128,000 jobs between Q3:2023 and Q4:2023.

StatsSA said that employment decreases were mainly in the Services (-171,000), Construction (-36,000), and Agriculture (-35,000) industries, while the largest employment increases were recorded in Finance (+128,000), Transport (+57,000) and Mining (+37,000).

The youth remain particularly vulnerable in South Africa’s labour market.

StatsSA said that youth aged 15-34 years are more vulnerable to unemployment when compared to older age groups, while around 3.4 million (33.0%) out of 10.2 million young people aged 15-24 years were not in employment, education or training (NEET).

The overall NEET rate (15 – 24yrs) decreased by 0.7 of a percentage point in Q4:2023 compared to Q4:2022.

The unemployment rate increased in six provinces – the Western Cape, Northern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Gauteng, North West, and the Eastern Cape – between Q3:2023 and Q4:2023.

The unemployment rate decreased in Limpopo, Mpumulanga, and the Free State.

The largest increase was recorded in the Eastern Cape – up by 3,1 percentage points. The Free State saw the largest drop, at 1,5 percentage points.

Read: The best case scenario for South Africa in 2024

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