Unemployment rate drops as South Africa finally crawls out of the Covid slump

 ·14 Nov 2023

Some good news for South Africa’s employment sector – the country’s unemployment rate improved marginally by 0.7 percentage points to 31.7% in the third quarter of the year.

According to Stats SA, the country recorded its eighth consecutive quarter of employment increases, adding 399,000 workers to those who have a job in the country.

Even more positively, the number of employed persons in the country has hit 16.7 million, which is higher than the 16.4 million recorded before the Covid-19 pandemic devastated the country.

However, 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% (1.6 percentage points lower), meaning job creation is still not keeping up with the number of people entering the workforce.

The numbers

The number of unemployed persons decreased by 72,000 to 7.8 million during the quarter.

Additionally, the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement decreased by 160,000 to 13.1 million, while the discouraged work-seekers decreased by 26,000 in the third quarter of 2023 compared to the second quarter of 2023.

This resulted in a net decrease of 186,000 in the not economically active population, Stats SA said.

“The above changes in employment and unemployment resulted in the official unemployment rate decreasing by 0.7 of a percentage point from 32.6% in the second quarter of 2023 to 31.9% in the third quarter of 2023,” the stats body said.

The unemployment rate, according to the expanded definition, decreased by 0.9 of a percentage point to 41.2% in Q3:2023 compared to Q2:2023.

The working-age population increased by 140,000 or 0.3% in the third quarter of 2023 compared to the second quarter of 2023. Compared to Q3: 2022, the working-age population increased by 564,000 or 1.4%.

The number of employed persons increased in six of the ten industries.

The largest increases in employment were recorded in Finance (237,000), followed by Community and social services (119,000), Agriculture (61,000) and Construction (53,000).

Decreases in employment were recorded in Manufacturing (50,000), Mining (35,000), Transport (20,000) and Utilities (16,000) industries.

Compared to the same period last year, a net increase of 979,000 in total employment in Q3: 2023 was largely due to increases in the number of people employed in Finance (456,000), Community and social services (235,000), Trade (145,000) and Construction (134,000) industries.

The only industries to observe a decrease were Manufacturing (123,000) and Utilities (3,000).

Looking on a per province basis, KwaZulu-Natal (up 152,000), Limpopo (up 70,000), North-West (up 61,000) and Mpumalanga (up 44,000) saw the largest employment number increases during the quarter.

The Free State (down 3,000) was the only province to see employment losses during Q3.

“The youth remain vulnerable in the labour market; however, the third quarter of 2023 results show that the total number of unemployed youth (15–34 years) decreased by 174,000 to 4.6 million while there was an increase of 237,000 in the number of employed youth to 6.0 million,” Stats SA.

“This resulted in a decrease in the youth unemployment rate by 1,9 percentage points from 45.3% in Q2 2023 to 43.4% in Q3 2023.”

Read: Warning over South Africa’s unemployment rate

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