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SA unemployment rate rises to 14-year high

Jun 01 2017 12:40
Liesl Peyper

Cape Town - South Africa’s unemployment in the first quarter of 2017 increased by 1.2 of a percentage point to 27.7% - the highest figure since September 2003.

Pali Lehohla, statistician-general of Statistics South Africa, released the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the first quarter of this year in Pretoria on Thursday, saying that the growth in employment was offset by the increase in the number of job seekers who entered the market in the beginning of the year.

GRAPHS: Grim reality of SA's job market

The expanded unemployment rate - which includes those who wanted to work but did not look for work - increased by 0.8 of a percentage point to 36.4%, or 391 000 people. This amounts to 9.3 million people who were unemployed but wanted to work in the first quarter of 2017.

Lehohla said 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,” he said. “The gap to 2020 currently stands at 13.7 percentage points.” 

In the fourth quarter of 2016, unemployment stood at 26.5%.

Of the 433 000 of people who joined the ranks of the unemployed in the first quarter of 2017, approximately 58% were young people between the ages of 15 and 34 years. “Unemployment remained high among those with an education level of less than matric at 33.1%, which is 5.4 percentage points higher than the national average.”

This number is even higher when the number of discouraged work seekers is taken into account. The quarterly figures show that less than 5% of the discouraged work seekers have tertiary education, while approximately 72% had an education level below matric.

The unemployment rate among graduates are 7.3%.

Employment by industry level

The latest figures show that the manufacturing sector reflected the biggest growth in employment in the first quarter of 2017 – by 62 000.

The mining industry showed employment growth of 26 000 after a decline for four consecutive quarters.

The agricultural sector shed 44 000 jobs in the period under review, while employment in the trade sector dropped by 15 000.

Jobs in the informal sector also went down by 14 000 to 2.7 million.

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