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Record-High Unemployment Rate in South Africa

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South Africa never recorded an unemployment rate that high. It lost 1.4 million jobs in a year. Discouraged work-seekers increased by 7.3% in a year.

South Africa’s unemployment rate reached 32.6% for Q1 2021. It is the highest rate since Statistics South Africa started the Quarterly Labour Force Survey in 2008.

The statistics are slightly higher than during the 4th quarter of 2020, with a 0.1% increase. Economists had expected the rate to be even more important as the academic year usually stops in December, bringing new graduates on the job market. More than half of the 26 South African universities decided to postpone the end of the academic year between January and March 2021. The unemployment rate is likely to keep growing.

There are still 7.2 million people between 15 and 64 years old in search of a job in a country of 58.6 million people. If it adds those who stopped searching for a job, the extended unemployment rate even reaches 43.2% of the labour force between 15 and 64. Discouraged work-seekers, who stopped searching for a job because they lost hope, are unable to find work related to their skills or because there is no job in the area, increased 7.3% year-on-year, accounting for 3.1 million people.

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Only the financial industry added 10,000 jobs

In a year, South Africa lost 1.4 million jobs and hasn’t recovered from the 2.2 million jobs it lost in the 2nd quarter of 2020. It is a 8.5% decrease in the number of employed people year-on-year. South Africa was hit harder than the United States, whose employed people shrank by 5.4% between January 2020 and January 2021. The European Union had 1% fewer employed people between Q1 2020 and Q4 2020 (Q1 2021 data were not available yet).

Compared to last year, the construction, manufacturing and the trade sectors, some of the largest of South Africa’s economy, were hit the most by net employment losses with respectively 199,000, 149,000 and 135,000 fewer jobs. Only Finance hired more people with a 0.4% year-on-year growth.

While the pandemic hit South Africa’s economy hard, Statistics South Africa recorded that 81% of 15 million persons employed were still expected to work by the organization they worked for during the lockdown in 2021.

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