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South Africa’s unemployment situation remains dire. According to the latest quarterly labour force survey (QLFS), the country is facing the highest unemployment rate since September 2003.

SA unemployment continues to riseAccording to Statistician-General Pali Lehohla, the increase in unemployment has been driven by the number of people entering the labour market looking for employment. “The unemployment rate is not driven solely by people losing their jobs. It is also driven by the job search; that is, the more people that come into the labour market looking for jobs, then that increases your unemployment,” he said at the survey’s release.

The QLFS showed that while jobs were created in some sectors during the last quarter, job losses are exceeding those created. The manufacturing sector added 62 000 jobs and the mining sector saw its first employment growth in four consecutive quarters. Mining grew by 26 000 jobs. However, the agricultural sector shed 44 000 jobs in the period under review, while employment in the trade sector dropped by 15 000.

Currently, 6.2 million people are unemployed, an 14.3 million South Africans are economically inactive. Unemployment rates remained high among those with education levels of less than matric, the statistics show, with 33.1% of the unemployed population falling into this category. This is 5.4 percentage points higher than the national average.

The expanded unemployment rate, which includes those who have given up on finding a job, increased by 391 000 people, or 0.8 of a percentage point, to 36.4%, Lehohla said, adding that youth unemployment is now higher than the national average. Of the 433 000 people who joined the ranks of the unemployed, approximately 58% were young people aged between 15 and 34, increasing the youth unemployment rate by 1.6 percentage points to 38.6%.

The proportion of those in short-term unemployment increased by 2.4 percentage points to 34.2%, a further indication that these were young people who joined the work force at the beginning of the year. Unemployment rates among graduates remained at 7.3%.

According to Lehohla, the gap between the unemployment rate envisaged in the National Development Plan (NDP) and the current rate is widening. “The NDP states unemployment should be 14% by 2020 and we have only two and a half years to that target. The gap to 2020 currently stands at 13.7 percentage points.”

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/governmentza/25373943244

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