ECONOMISTS have praised Mpumalanga’s 4.4% employment growth in the second quarter of 2012, but have cautioned that ending unemployment remained a mirage in the current economic and labour climate.
The province has, according to the Quarterly Labour Survey by Stats SA, created 40 000 new jobs from May to July, the highest figure among all nine provinces.
Limpopo recorded 22 000 new jobs and Eastern Cape 19 000, while there were losses in the Western Cape (32 000), Gauteng (15 000) and Free State (9 000) over the same period.
The national average growth was 0.2%, or 25 000 jobs, which reduced the unemployment rate t0 24.9%, during the same period.
The Mpumalanga job increases were created in trade (21 000), construction (12 000), transport (8 000), finance (6 000) mining (3 000), agriculture (2 000) and utilities (2 000).
However, the manufacturing sector, community services and private households did not perform well as they shed 14 000 jobs.
Mpumalanga’s chairperson for the executive council committee on economy, investment and employment, Norman Mokoena (also economic development MEC), attributed the growth to the province’s endeavours to provide an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive.
Mokoena said organised business and labour were consulted widely for input on the province’s economic blueprint – the Mpumalanga Economic Growth and Development Path.
“We managed to achieve these employment figures despite the deteriorating global economic prospects, mainly due to the persisting eurozone debt crisis,” he said.
“Our consultations intended to gain a full understanding of (the private sectors’) problems, challenges, blockages, opportunities and their plans for the future to see how we could work together in creating the desired environment for investments in the province, and to seek comments and inputs on our draft Mpumalanga Economic Growth and Development Path,” he said.
The latest figures mean that Mpumalanga has a yearly employment growth of 7.8%, the second highest among all provinces.
This translates to a net job creation of 69 000 on a yearly basis (second quarter 2011 to second quarter 2012), which is shy of the provincial target of new jobs by a mere
1 000. It also indicates a 21.4 percentage share, or 322 000, of the total job creation in South Africa between the second quarters of 2011
SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive officer Neren Rau, however, said that chamber members still experienced challenges to operate in Mpumalanga despite the good news.
“We certainly take our hats off to Mpumalanga government because it’s due to them that the private sector is improving.
“However, more could be done as the business environment is not where it should be,” Rau said.
He said roads infrastructure and the cost of municipal services still needed attention.
“Broadly speaking, business is very cautious about the way forward and economic outlook.
We’re, however, impressed by Mpumalanga’s growth plan, which is superior to the national plan and the fact that they’ve been reaching out to business,” Rau said.
The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry said there was a range of factors that impeded job creation, such as skills deficit, but singled out inflexible labour legislation as the main culprit.
Economists.co.za director Mike Schüssler said the Quarterly Labour Survey’s data was often “volatile”, and raised uncertainty about taking the employment and unemployment statistics at face value.
“One can only take the quarter-to-quarter data with a pinch of salt because samples of 30 000 people are given forms to fill out and some don’t.
It would be better to monitor the figures over three to four quarters.”
He said the broad unemployment statistics, which included discouraged jobseekers, were a lot higher than what the Quarterly Labour Survey provided.
Schüssler said if this matter was looked at broadly with what he called “hidden unemployment”, South Africa’s unemployment rate was 37% while Mpumalanga 42%.
“It’s a positive sign that there’s a province that helps the private sector. Mpumalanga has great potential because of the Maputo Corridor route, good climate for farming, minerals and tourism.
“However, we need to be aware that we have a long way to go . . . We can’t have 42% unemployment and think a 4.4% growth in a quarter is going to solve unemployment,” he added.
The province said it planned to counter job losses in the manufacturing sector by establishing a fresh produce market and a food technology centre to process agricultural products locally.