SA loses 67 000 jobs in formal non-agricultural sector in 3 months

Year-on-year, the number of full-time jobs declined by 16 000 in March 2023 compared to March 2024.

Year-on-year, the number of full-time jobs declined by 16 000 in March 2023 compared to March 2024.

Published Jun 26, 2024


Total employment in the formal non-agricultural sector fell by 67 000 in the first quarter of 2024, bringing the level of employment to 10.7 million, and 74 000 jobs were lost between March 2023 and March 2024.

This is according to Statistics South Africa’s (Stats SA) Quarterly Employment Statistics (QES) for March 2024 released yesterday.

Stats SA said the total number of employees declined by 67 000, or -0.6%, a decrease from the 10 731 000 reported in December 2023 to 10 664 000 in March 2024.

Stats SA said trade and community services industries saw the highest number of job losses, totalling 57 000 and 18 000 respectively, followed by the business services industry, which lost 4 000 jobs, and the mining industry, which experienced a loss of 3 000 jobs.

The electricity sector reported no change during the same period.

Stats SA said certain industries experienced growth in employment, with the manufacturing industry experiencing an uptick of 12 000 jobs, trailed by the transport industry with 2 000 jobs, and the construction industry with 1 000 jobs.

Anchor Capital’s investment analyst, Casey Sprake, said the latest decrease in total employment came as no surprise, given the disappointing first quarter gross domestic product (GDP) print.

“However, what is interesting to note is that formal sector earnings growth continues to track largely below headline consumer inflation – meaning that employees are earning less in real terms,” she said.

“It is worth bearing in mind, however, that the relationship between the two key employment measures in South Africa is becoming increasingly difficult to interpret.

“The employment data from the Quarterly Labour Force Survey have diverged sharply in recent months from data reported in the QES, which is an enterprise-based labour market survey that only reports on the formal sector. Thus, gaining a more transparent and holistic picture of unemployment in SA is becoming increasingly difficult.”

Sprake said regardless of the exact data, Anchor Capital maintained that the official headline unemployment numbers did not fully reflect the true extent of the unemployment crisis in the country.

According to Stats SA, full-time employment declined by 29 000 jobs, falling from 9 513 000 in the fourth quarter of 2023 to 9 484 000 in the first quarter of 2024.

Several industries witnessed declines in full-time employment. The trade industry observed a reduction of 35 000 jobs, followed by the community services industry with a loss of 13 000 jobs, and the mining industry with a decrease of 3 000 jobs.

Conversely, the manufacturing industry reported an increase of 18 000 jobs. Meanwhile, moderate increases were noted in the business services and construction industries, with 3 000 jobs and 1 000 jobs, respectively.

Year-on-year, the number of full-time jobs declined by 16 000 in March 2023 compared to March 2024.

Part-time employment also fell by 38 000, reaching a total of 1 180 000 in March 2024 compared to 1 218 000 reported in December 2023.

Stats SA said this decrease was mainly driven by declines in trade with 22 000 jobs, with business services, manufacturing, and community services industries reporting losses of 7 000, 6 000 and 5 000 jobs, respectively.

However, the transport industry experienced an increase in part-time employment, adding 2 000 jobs.

Gross earnings paid to employees also declined by R35.1 billion or -3.5% from R993bn in December to R957.9bn in March 2024.

Average monthly earnings paid to employees decreased by 0.1% from R26 817 in November last year to R26 793 in February this year.

On an annual basis, average monthly earnings paid to employees increased by 4.7% between February last year and February this year.