SA unemployment drops to 33.9% in Q2 2022

South Africa’s unemployment rate fell to 33.9% in the second quarter (Q2) of 2022, from 34.5% in Q1, led mainly by job gains in the community and social services, trade, finance and construction sectors, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) said on Tuesday.

According to Stats SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS), 648 000 more jobs were gained during the April to June period, bringing the total number of employed persons in the country to 15.6 million.

The number of unemployed people did however increase by 132 000 during the period, bringing the total unemployed figure in the country to eight million in Q2.

The expanded definition of unemployment – which takes into consideration discouraged workers – also paints a slightly improved picture, with the Q2 figure coming in at 44.1% – 1.4 percentage points stronger than that reported in Q1.

There were 183 000 fewer discouraged workers on the streets of South Africa in Q2, while the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement also fell by 452 000.

Sectoral gains

Stats SA reports that the biggest job gains were reported in the community and social services sectors which employed 276 000 more people during the period.

The trade and finance sectors employed 169 000 and 128 000 more people respectively.

The construction sector also made significant contributions to improved job numbers, despite facing challenges this year, employing 104 000 more people during the period.

However, weighing down the job numbers were the manufacturing and transport sectors which saw 73 000 and 54 000 job losses respectively in Q2.

Read: SA’s unemployment rate declines for first time since 2020

Labour market woes

The drop in the latest unemployment numbers is a welcome relief from the record highs reported for Q4 of 2021. Pandemic-led labour market woes at the time saw the country’s unemployment rate at 35.3%, the highest rate ever reported since the QLFS began in 2008.

During the assessed period, the labour market had to deal with two major economic shocks in the form of KwaZulu-Natal’s (KZN’s) devastating April floods and the country’s worst bout of blackouts.

Severe flooding in KZN saw hundreds of people killed, over 40 000 people displaced and more than 10 000 homes destroyed. As one of the country’s manufacturing and farming hubs, the impact of the floods caused huge economic disruption. The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition estimated that at least 826 companies were affected, placing about 31 200 jobs at risk.

Then, the month of June saw consumers and businesses battling the worst bout of load shedding yet, exacerbated by a wildcat labour strike by Eskom employees.

Eskom as a result was forced to implement Stage 6 loadshedding, which meant households and businesses could be without electricity supply for up to 10 hours a day. This situation weakened business confidence and the country’s investment outlook.

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