South Africa’s unemployment rate rose to 27.6% of the labour force in the first quarter of 2019 from 27.1% in the final quarter of last year, the statistics agency said on Tuesday.
The economy was bleeding 237,000 jobs in that period. This was an increase of 0.5 percentage points compared to 27.1% recorded in the fourth quarter of 2018.
The decline in employment was driven by the construction sector which shed 142,000 jobs, finance 94,000, community and social services 50,000, and private households 31,000. The mining sector, one of the pillars of the SA economy, shed 20,000 jobs and agriculture 12,000.
South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the employment rate could decline even further.
“Our economy has stagnated, and it is declining,” said Vavi. “We had load shedding and our industry is shrinking. We expect more pressure on workers at SABC, SAA, Eskom and PetroSA to pay for all the sins they did not create.”
In its quarterly labour force survey, Statistics South Africa said the number of employed people decreased by 237,000 to 16.3 million in the first quarter, while that of jobless people increased by 62,000 to 6.2 million compared to the fourth quarter of 2018.
Employment gains were recorded in the transport industry with 59,000 jobs, trade 25,000, utilities 16,000 and manufacturing 14,000.
Mamokgethi Molopyane, a mining and labour analyst, said there were several factors contributing to SA’s unemployment problem.
“We are an economy that is highly dependent on resources, and as such we are affected by the drop in demand of resources or commodities,” she said.
“As the world market changes and repositions itself, we know what happens in other countries tends to affect other countries. SA is not unique in that, the demand in China at the moment and other resource consuming economies will have a direct impact on us.”
As president Cyril Ramaphosa said in his address at the Jobs Summit, the low levels of growth in our economy in recent years have undermined SA’s efforts to overcome the economic legacy of apartheid and contributes to social problems like poor health, poor education outcomes, substance abuse, and crime.