File picture: Philimon Bulawayo

JOHANNESBURG - The trade balance in September recorded a surplus of R4 billion, R3bn under market expectations while the unemployment rate remained stubbornly high at a 14 year high in the quarter.  

The South African Revenue Services (Sars) yesterday said in a statement that the narrowing of the surplus was due to a decline in exports which dropped 1.6 percent to R101.7bn on a month-on-month basis against a 0.4 percent uptick in imports to R97.7bn. The surplus was a deterioration year-on-year from R7bn recorded in September 2016.

The trade data was a second set of statistics that reflected subdued trading conditions this week. Early this week Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) said private sector credit rose 5.59 percent from a year earlier in September of 2017, following a 5.98 percent growth in the previous month. Yesterday Stats SA said unemployment rate came remained at 27.7 as in the previous two quarters maintaining the highest rate in 14 years. It said joblessness in the country rose by 33 thousand to 6.21 million while those with jobs increased by 92 thousand to 16.19 million.  Macroeconomics statistics website Trading Economics said the unemployment in South Africa averaged 25.50 percent from 2000 until 2017, reaching an all-time high of 31.20 percent in the first quarter of 2003 and a record low of 21.50 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. A year earlier, the jobless rate was lower at 27.1 percent.

The expanded definition of unemployment, including people who have stopped looking for work, rose to 36.8 percent in the third quarter from 36.6 percent in the previous period.  The number of unemployed persons increased by 33 000 to 6.21 million in the quarter under review from 6.17 million in the second quarter. Employment rose by 92 000 to 16.19 million from 16.10 million in the previous period. Job losses occurred in the informal sector which shed 71 thousand jobs and in agriculture which let go of 25 thousand jobs. 

However, the formal sector added 187 thousand jobs in the quarter.

Cosatu spokesman Sizwe Pamla said that jobs unemployment rose because of changes in the structure of the economy with available labour possessing neither the skills nor education to occupy existing posts.

“One of the major policy failures was to allow free movement of capital which entailed allowing SA companies to take profits produced by SA labour from the Republic to other countries and taking away the government’s power to regulate the export of capital and to limit imports. This gave space to SA companies to deprive SA of the much-needed capital,” Pamla said.