South Africa’s official unemployment rate retreated during every quarter of 2022, according to data released on Tuesday.(Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)
South Africa’s official unemployment rate retreated during every quarter of 2022, according to data released on Tuesday.
Statistics South Africa’s quarterly labour force survey shows that the official unemployment rate recorded a slight decline of 0.2 percentage points, reaching 32.7% in the final quarter of 2022 — its fourth consecutive decrease.
This was as 169 000 jobs were gained between the third and the fourth quarter, putting the total number of employed people at 15.9 million. The number of unemployed people also increased, although to a lesser degree, to 7.8 million.
In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the country’s unemployment rate peaked at 35.3% in the fourth quarter of 2021. During that quarter, 14.5 million people were employed, while 7.9 million were without jobs.
According to the Stats SA data, the expanded unemployment rate — which also counts job seekers who have given up on the search — was 42.6% in the fourth quarter of 2022, down from 43.1%.
The majority of jobs created in the quarter were in the financial services industry, which employed 103 000 more people. But the community and social services industry lost a whopping 122 000 jobs.
South Africa has struggled to claw back the jobs it lost in the first months of the pandemic in 2020, when 2.2 million people found themselves without work. In the quarters that followed, the official unemployment rate rose to record levels, until the beginning of 2022.
Despite its recent declines, the unemployment rate is still above its pre-pandemic level of 30.1% — and could remain elevated as the country’s energy crisis continues to tear at growth.
In its recently tabled budget review, the treasury forecast that growth would come in at a meagre 1.4% over the next three years. The economy is expected to grow by a paltry 0.9% in 2023.
For unemployment to come down sustainably, the economy needs to grow by at least 5% in a year.