South Africa’s unemployment rate increased to 26.4% in the first quarter of 2015, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) reported on Tuesday.
This was up from the 24.3% in the last quarter of 2014, this as the data has been revised to take account of the changes to the structure of the population revealed in the 2011 census. The last time this was done was in 2007 using the 2001 census.
“The results for quarter one shows that the working age population was 35.8 million- 15.5 million employed, 5.5 million unemployed and 14.8 million not economically active. Thus resulting in an unemployment rate of 26.4%,” said Statistician General Pali Lehohla at a media briefing at the release of the first quarter results of 2015 of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS).
In its survey that polls households, Stats SA said that the formal sector accounted for the largest share of employment at 69.8% while agriculture accounted for the lowest share.
Around 16% of the not economically active population was accounted for by the discouraged, while more than 80% were due to other reasons (like being a student or a home maker).
“The results for quarter one of 2015 reflect a decrease in the not economically active population in favour of the economically active population,” noted the report.
The number of employed people increased by 140 000 in the first quarter with large quarterly gains observed in the finance (156 000), agriculture (150 000) and private households industries (69 000).
Job losses were recorded in the trade, transport and community and social services industries (at 201 000, 53 000 and 51 000 respectively).
In the first quarter the expanded unemployment rate (which includes people who have stopped looking for work) increased by 1.5% to 36.1%.
In the first quarter the share of the employed population with tertiary education was highest among the white (46.3%) and Indian/Asian (34.2%) population groups. Over half of employed black Africans and the coloured population did not complete their matric education.
Nedbank economists said that labour market conditions are unlikely to improve significantly in the months ahead.
“Local economic conditions remain weak and fragile, while the global recovery is also lacklustre. The weak growth picture, together with other factors such as high input costs and unstable electricity supply will hurt business sentiment, and make firms wary of expanding capacity significantly.
The figures provide further evidence that economic activity remains too weak to grow employment significantly. The Reserve Bank will continue to face the dilemma of slow, inadequate growth, but rising inflation.
“We still think that the MPC will try to keep the rates on hold for as long as possible but much now depends on cost push factors such as Eskom’s latest tariff application as well as the trajectory of the oil price and the rand. A fourth quarter rate rise still seems likely but risks of a quicker move have risen,” explained the economists