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CAPE TOWN - Youth unemployment in South Africa surged to 52.4 percent in the first quarter from51.1 percent recorded in the fourth quarter of last year.

Data from the StatisticsSouth Africa (Stats SA) QuarterlyLabour Force Survey yesterday showed that job seekers between 15 and 24 years remained on the receiving end of the unemployment scourge despite President Cyril Ramaphosalaunching the Youth Employment Service in March to address the problem. 

Stats SA said unemployment maintained the 15-year high, remaining unchanged at 26.7 percent despite a slight increase in employment with the formal sector adding 111 000jobs and the informal sector contributing 93 000.

The quarterly employment increase of 206 000 jobs in the first quarter was driven by sectors including mining, which added 1 849 000 jobs, construction1 431 000 jobs and manufacturing with 1 849 000 jobsNKC African Economics said official unemployment remained very high by historical standards.

NKC analyst Gerrit van Rooyen said subdued employment and the large jump in discouraged work seekers showed that economic growth was sluggish during the quarter.“Without the necessary policy intervention to address growth, youth unemployment, and education issues, high unemployment is likely to persist into the foreseeable future,” Van Rooyen said.

Unemployment increased from 9 216 million in the previous quarter to 9 481 million during the current one, while the number of employed people increased 1.3 percent quarter-on-quarter and 1 percent year-on-year to 16.4 million individuals. 

JoblessnessThe Eastern Cape recorded the highest joblessness at 46 percent, followed by Mpumalanga at 42.5 percent and the platinum-rich North West at 41.8 percent.

Discouraged job seekers decreased from the previous quarter's 15 474 to 15 320 in the first quarter of 2018.FNB senior economic analyst Jason Muscat said the figures were broadly in line with expectations.

“We continue to remain downbeat on the prospects for meaningful declines in the unemployment rate,” Muscat said. “Despite the forecast for economic growth of approximately 2 percent this year, GDP will have to grow at more than double.

-BUSINESS REPORT