Johannesburg - It has taken South Africa five years to regain the 1 million jobs it lost through the recession, according to data released by Statistics SA (Stats SA) yesterday.
The quarterly labour force survey shows that despite labour and policy problems, the unemployment rate fell to 24.7 percent in the third quarter from 25.6 percent in the second.
But Kevin Lings, the chief economist at Stanlib, warned that despite the latest gain in employment, the unemployment rate remained exceedingly high by global standards.
Stats SA said employment increased for the third consecutive quarter to just over 14 million, with the level of employment in the third quarter reaching the peak of 2008.
The number of employed people increased by 308 000 in the three months to September while the number of unemployed decreased by 114 000.
Annabel Bishop, the Investec group economist, said the mild improvement in the unemployment rate in the quarter was due in significant part to an increase in the number of civil servants. The labour force grew to 18.64 million in the third quarter from 18.44 million, while the number of discouraged work seekers fell by 125 000 to 2.24 million people.
Standard Bank Research said the biggest contributing sectors to the total employment increase in the quarter were trade (100 000), community and social services (96 000) and finance and other business services (92 000). These sectors account for about 57 percent of total employment. Mining added 15 000 jobs.
The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) said it welcomed the slight drop in the official and expanded definition of unemployment.
Cosatu said the figures proved the country was already feeling the effects of the National Development Plan’s of deindustrialisation.
Stats SA revealed the working age population had increased by 2.3 million since the peak in employment in 2008. This had resulted in a decline in the percentage of South Africans aged between 15 and 64 years who had jobs from 45 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 to 41.9 percent in the latest quarter.
The Nedbank Economic Unit said: “The rise in formal sector jobs is encouraging. However, this does not reflect a sustained increase in job levels. Subdued economic growth on the back of still weak, though improving, global conditions and lacklustre domestic output growth, point towards job creation remaining generally slow in the next few quarters.”
Lings said South Africa’s unemployment rate contributed to much of the social tension and anguish experienced in the country on a daily basis.
Bishop said: “The failure to reach full employment is an ingrained structural problem of poor education outcomes and insufficient job creation; labour market and education system reform is required if unemployment is to be reduced to the global average.”
She said labour market inflexibility needed to be urgently addressed, uncertainty over property rights resolved and the proliferation of wastage and inefficiency in service and infrastructure provision, particularly the high administrative cost component, eliminated. - Business Report