684 000 without work in province as SA at worst level since 2003
South Africa’s unemployment level is at its highest since 2003, with the Eastern Cape recording the biggest increase and having 684 000 now jobless.
This is according to the labour force survey issued yesterday by Statistics SA.
Additionally, Nelson Mandela Bay failed to register any employment growth, along with Mangaung in the Free State and Johannesburg.
The province saw an increase of 3.8 percentage points in unemployment, going from 28.4% in the fourth quarter of last year [October to December] to 32.2% in the first quarter of this year [January-March].
The total of 684 000 jobless is up from 574 000 in the last quarter of last year.
National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc) Nelson Mandela Bay regional secretary Mandia Msizi said it was “devastating to say the least about these figures”.
“The lack of employment activities in rural areas has a negative impact of influx of job seekers into the city.”
On the retrenchments facing GMSA staff and the effect on employment in the province, Msizi said it was a hard pill to swallow.
“It is unfortunate that our city has invested heavily in this sector while the entire industry has been rebated less from our government in terms of incentives for investments,” he said.
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber spokeswoman Cindy Preller said the unemployment levels highlighted a need for a greater focus on diversifying the economy.
“While it must be taken into account that quarter one is traditionally characterised by more people joining the labour market [school and university leavers] and the contracts of those who worked over the festive season having ended, the unemployment rate for the province is disappointingly high, in particular when compared with our peers,” she said.
StatsSA’s latest report on the Bay’s unemployment rate remained virtually unchanged, she said.
It corresponded with the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa’s quarterly review of the business conditions – new motor vehicle manufacturing industry/automotive sector for the first quarter of 2017.
It reported employment numbers in the automotive industry remaining stable in quarter one, although it had been in decline year on year.
“To achieve greater employment growth in [the metro] and counter the potential impact withdrawals in the automotive industry would have on our employment levels, it is crucial to diversify our economy and not be over-reliant on the vehicle manufacturing industry,” Preller said.
Statistics for the rest of the country lacked positive results as well.
While the economy added 144 000 jobs during the first quarter, this was offset by the number of job-seekers surging by 433 000 people.
The unemployment of 27.7% in the first quarter was up 1.2 percentage points from the fourth quarter.
“The gap in reaching the 2030 National Development Plan target of 24 million employed people is now 7.8 million‚” statistician-general Pali Lehohla said.
Growth in employment was seen in all industries except agriculture‚ trade and services.
Employment was boosted by growth in the manufacturing sector‚ which added 62 000 jobs‚ and in the finance and other business services categories‚ which added 49 000 employees. Mining added 26 000 jobs.
The youth unemployment rate rose by 1.6 percentage points to 38.6%‚ with 58% of unemployed people aged between 15 and 34.
“It’s very important that the unemployment in these two age groups of 15 to 24 and 25 to 35 has increased,” Lehohla said. “Once they’re unemployed for a time‚ it gets harder and harder for them to get jobs.”
Unemployment increased or was unchanged in all the provinces except the Northern Cape, which decreased.