Unemployment reached highest level in fourth quarter of 2020: Stats SA

The official unemployment rate increased to 32.5% in the last quarter of 2020, Statistics SA announced on Tuesday.
The official unemployment rate increased to 32.5% in the last quarter of 2020, Statistics SA announced on Tuesday.
Image: RUBY GAY MARTIN

The official unemployment rate increased by 1.7 percentage points to 32.5% in the last quarter of 2020 - the highest since the start of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) in 2008, Statistics SA announced on Tuesday.

Stats SA said results of the QLFS for the period between October and December 2020 showed the number of employed people increased by 333,000 to 15 million, and the number of unemployed people increased by 701,000 to 7.2 million compared to the third quarter of 2020.

Stats SA said this resulted in an increase of one million (up by 4.9%) in the number of people in the labour force.

The QLFS is a household-based sample survey conducted by Stats SA. It collects data on the labour market activities of people aged between 15 and 64 years who live in the country.

Stats SA said the number of discouraged work seekers increased by 235,000 (8.7%), and the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement decreased by 1.1 million (7.4%) between the two quarters.

This resulted in a net decrease of 890,000 in the not economically active population.

Stats SA said the movement was proportionately more towards the unemployed than the employed.

The unemployment rate, according to the expanded definition of unemployment, decreased by 0.5 of a percentage point to 42.6% in quarter 4 2020 compared to quarter 3 2020.

The largest employment increases in the fourth quarter were observed in the formal sector (189,000) followed by private households (76,000), the informal sector (65,000) and the agricultural sector (2,000).

Stats SA said compared to the same period in 2019, a net decrease of 1.4 million in total employment in the fourth quarter of 2020 was largely due to losses in the number of people employed in the finance (256,000), community and social services (241,000), manufacturing (230,000), trade (186,000) and construction (184,000) industries.

It said in the fourth quarter of 2020, informal sector employment increased by 65,000 people compared to the previous quarter.

The gains in informal sector employment were driven by the construction (32,000), community and social services (28,000), transport (19,000) and trade (17,000) industries.

The number of employed people increased in eight provinces between the third quarter of 2020 and the fourth quarter of 2020.

The largest employment increases were recorded in the Western Cape (up by 121,000), KwaZulu-Natal (up by 66,000) and Gauteng (up by 64,000).

Employment losses were recorded only in Mpumalanga during the same period.

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