PEOPLE queueing to collect unemployment insurance benefits in Durban in March. Statistics SA says formal sector jobs rose by 18 000 in the fourth quarter of 2019, compared with the same period a year ago.     Leon Lestrade African News Agency (ANA)
PEOPLE queueing to collect unemployment insurance benefits in Durban in March. Statistics SA says formal sector jobs rose by 18 000 in the fourth quarter of 2019, compared with the same period a year ago. Leon Lestrade African News Agency (ANA)

More people employed in fourth quarter

By Siphelele Dludla Time of article published Apr 1, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s unemployment rate continued to slip in the fourth quarter of 2019, despite a slight uptick in formal non-agriculture jobs.

Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) said yesterday in its Quarterly Employment Statistics that the number of full-time employees decreased by 2000, compared with the third quarter, while part-time workers increased by 18000, representing the lowest employment gains in the last quarter of the year, which has customarily produced seasonal employment gains since 2009.

The agency said total employment increased by 16000 or 0.2percent quarter-on-quarter, despite the economy shrinking 1.4percent in the same period.

StatsSA said the formal non-agricultural sector added 16000 jobs in the fourth quarter of 2019, compared with the third quarter.

It said jobs in the quarter increased from 10.197million in September to 10.213million in December.

However, economists warned that unemployment was set to increase this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, despite the number of employed people increasing marginally in the three months to December.

The fourth quarter normally adds jobs in many sectors as traders look for temporary staff, particularly for Black Friday and over the festive season.

FNB senior economist Siphamandla Mkhwanazi said the outlook for global and domestic economic growth had deteriorated materially since the outbreak of Covid-19.

Mkhwanazi said the country should expect “significant job losses” as a result of economic disruption from the pandemic.

“Supply chain disruptions and the demand-dampening effect of containment measures will weigh heavily on output, asset prices, sentiment and consumer spending,” Mkhwanazi pointed out.

“As a result, we expect significant job losses in 2020, which bodes ill for household income and their ability to spend.”

StatsSA said that formal sector jobs rose by 18000 in the fourth quarter of 2019, compared with the same period a year ago.

The largest contributor to the increase in job numbers was the trade sector, gaining 39000 jobs in December.

It said the business services sector added 12000 jobs during the period, while the community services sector added 3 000.

StatsSA also said the average monthly earnings, including bonuses and overtime payment, increased to R22500 a month in November 2019, from R21540 a month in the same period last year.

The broader manufacturing sector, including its heterogeneous metals and engineering cluster of industries lost 0.3percent of total employment of 4000 jobs.

But Investec’s Lara Hodes said the Covid-19 pandemic had caused a global economic fallout that would worsen South Africa’s already fragile domestic position.

Hodes said although moderate employment gains were experienced in certain industries, overall domestic labour market conditions remain sluggish.

“The global economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic serves to exacerbate South Africa’s already fragile domestic position which is marred by structural inefficiencies, including electricity supply constraints, and one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.

“Following a contraction in the second half of 2019, recessionary conditions are likely to persist in 2020 intensifying the domestic unemployment crisis, as business closures and cutbacks accelerate.”

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