Thousands of jobs lost as recession bites

Latest Stats SA figures show 69,000 positions were shed between March and June

An unemployed young South African pleads for money or food at a street corner
An unemployed young South African pleads for money or food at a street corner
Image: Reuters

Sixty-nine thousand jobs were lost in SA between March and June 2018 in what has been described as a rapidly deteriorating situation.

However, there has been a marginal improvement in the year-on-year figure.

This is according to Statistics South Africa’s (Stats SA) latest employment figures released on Wednesday.

Though the country shed 69,000 jobs between the first and second quarters of 2018, Stats SA recorded a 0.1% yearon-year increase in employment, of 13,000 jobs, between June 2017 and June 2018.

The figures form part of Stats SA’s Quarterly Employment Statistics (QES) which is an enterprise sample survey drawn from private non-agricultural businesses such as factories, firms, offices and stores, as well as from national, provincial and local government entities.

The QES differs from Stats SA’s second major employment barometer, the Quarterly Labour Force Survey, which surveys employment through households by collecting information from approximately 30,000 dwelling units on the labour market activities of individuals and does not provide an official unemployment rate.

According to statisticiangeneral Risenga Maluleke, employment decreased by 69,000 quarter-on-quarter, from 9,817,000 in March 2018 to 9,748,000 in June 2018.

This was largely due to decreases in the following industries: community services (-2.5%), manufacturing (-1.1%), mining and quarrying (-0.4%) and transport (-0.4%).

“Employment increased by 13,000, or 0.1%, year-on-year between June 2017 and June 2018. These increases were reported by: trade (1.1%), comelectricity munity services (0.8%), and business services (0.8%),” Maluleke said.

He said industries which had reported annual decreases in employment included mining and quarrying (-4.0%), construction (-2.3%), manufacturing (-1%), transport (-0.9%) and (-1.6%). Earlier in September, Stats SA figures showed that the economy had experienced its first technical recession since 2009 after GDP contracted 0.7% in the second quarter, following a revised 2.6% decline in the first quarter.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Centre for Development and Enterprise’s executive director, Ann Bernstein drew attention to a government-led job summit to be held on October 4 and 5.

“South Africa’s crisis of unemployment is the deepest in the world, and the jobs summit, to be hosted next week, will be a wasted opportunity unless it begins to deal with some of the key structural constraints on employment creation,” Bernstein said.

“Everyone knows that we have an exceptionally high level of unemployment. But few people realise how rapidly our situation is deteriorating.

“Since 2008, the adult population has grown by about 1,700 people per day, but the number of jobs has increased by only about 500 per day,” Bernstein said.

“For young people the trend is even worse: there are fewer young people in jobs today than there were in 2008.”

The centre noted that out of SA’s 11.9-million people classified as not economically active, 9.6-million were unemployed.

It attributed the jobs crisis to a failure of the high-skill, high-wages strategy, corruption, bad policies which harm labour-intensive activities, and transformation for a small elite and not millions.