SA’s unemployment rate drops, more than 150,000 people find jobs

The construction sector saw the highest growth in employment levels in Q2 2023. Picture: Davide Locatelli/Pexels

The construction sector saw the highest growth in employment levels in Q2 2023. Picture: Davide Locatelli/Pexels

Published Aug 15, 2023


South Africa’s official unemployment rate has decreased to 32.6 percent, with 154,000 more people finding work in the second quarter of this year.

The number of unemployed people has also decreased by 11,000, according to the Q2 findings of Statistics SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) released today.

In the formal sector, employment increased by 143,000, while, in the informal sector, there was a loss of 33,000 jobs.

The results of the QLFS, which covers the labour market activities of people in the country aged 15 to 64, show that the construction sector recorded the largest increase in employment with 104,000 more jobs. This was followed by job increases in the following sectors:

  • Trade: 92,000
  • Community and social services: 63,000
  • Private households: 37,000
  • Mining: 31,000
  • Agriculture: 7,000

These sectors recorded the following job losses:

  • Manufacturing: 96,000
  • Finance: 68,000
  • Transport: 7,000
  • Utilities (electricity, gas, water supply): 6,000

Compared to the same period last year, 73,000 more people in South Africa have jobs. In total, 16 million people in the country are now employed.

The survey also reveals that 142,000 more people joined the workforce in the April to May period.

Employment levels in the Free State and Northern Cape, dropped by 59,000 and 17,000 respectively, while jobs in Limpopo increased by 80,000. The Western Cape and KZN also saw higher employment levels, with job increases at 54,000 and 48,000 respectively.

However, despite the decrease, South Africa still has the highest unemployment rate in the world. It has been called a “ticking time bomb”, with the youth, in particular, struggling to find jobs.

The country’s unemployment rate was 32.9 percent in the first three months of 2023 – a 0.2 percent increase from Q4 2022. This increase followed four quarterly decreases in unemployment since the fourth quarter of 2021, when the rate reached a high of 35.3 percent.

  • Q4: 2021 – 35.3 percent
  • Q1: 2022 – 34.5 percent
  • Q2: 2022 – 33.9 percent
  • Q3: 2022 – 32.9 percent
  • Q4: 2022 – 32.7 percent
  • Q1: 2023 – 32.9 percent
  • Q2: 2023 – 32.6 percent

The South Africa National Human Development Report 2022, recently released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), states that the long legacy of colonial and apartheid structures continues to cast its dark shadow on South Africa’s progress and development, and that unemployment among the country’s youth is particularly concerning.

Dr Ayodele Odusola, the UNDP’s resident representative in South Africa, says youth unemployment is a multipronged challenge that limits the earning potential of youth, stymies business growth, threatens social cohesion, and puts pressure on public resources.

“There is no doubt that the high unemployment rate is a ticking time bomb. Accordingly, in addressing youth unemployment, the country will simultaneously be addressing poverty and income inequality. Addressing and tackling youth joblessness is, therefore not only sound economics but also a development imperative.”

Deputy President Paul Mashatile says the report does not shy away from the “significant” developmental challenges South Africa has yet to resolve, despite the passage of 28 years since the establishment of democracy.

“Youth unemployment and marginalisation from the economy is still a significant reality for too many of our young people...

“The report highlights the major role of education and skills in addressing this reality. The message is clear: too many of South Africa’s youth do not get the right educational foundations to prepare them for the job market, a fact that is compounded by lack of opportunities for skills acquisition and upgrading.”

He also commends the report for highlighting “many other critical issues that deserve our attention and an honest national conversation”.

“One such issue is the need to prepare our youth for the changing world of work, increasingly defined by the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (41R) and the pre-eminence of technology and digitisation.”

These issues and many other factors canvassed in the report should, he hopes, trigger the necessary policy actions that can help the country “stem the tide of youth unemployment and avoid the possible loss of an entire generation”.

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