Statistics South Africa has released the much-anticipated job numbers for the second quarter of 2020 after more than a month of postponements.

The number of employed persons decreased by 2,2 million to 14,1 million compared to the first quarter of 2020. Unemployment declined substantially as well by 2,8 million to 4,3 million compared to quarter 1 of 2020 and resulting in a decrease of 5,0 million (down by 21,4%) in the number of people in the labour force.

The number of discouraged work-seekers, like the number of unemployed, decreased by 447 000, and the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement increased by 5,6 million between the two quarters, resulting in a net increase of 5,2 million in the not economically active population.

These changes resulted in a significant decrease of 6,8 percentage points in the official unemployment rate from 30,1% in quarter 1 2020 to 23,3% in quarter 2 2020.

The unemployment rate according to the expanded definition of unemployment increased by 2,3 percentage points to 42,0% in quarter 2 2020 compared to quarter 1 2020.

The unemployment rate was recorded at 30.1% in the first quarter of this year.

The unemployment figure is reflecting the worst impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy. This follows the hard-lockdown — which halted most economic activities from March until June.

In August Stats SA announced a second delay of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the second quarter.

This was due to the implementation of a new method of collecting data, which was imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fieldwork and face-to-face methods of conducting questionnaires were suspended following lockdown in March as part of measures to deal with coronavirus outbreak.

Economic growth

Earlier Labour analyst Terry Bell said that economic growth will not be enough to fix South Africa’s unemployment problem. He says the country has a long past of jobless growth which calls for a new approach.

Bell says the answer to slowing down the unemployment rate lies in reducing the wage bill of cabinet ministers and executives in the private sector.

“So economic growth should not be the only thing we look at.  We should be looking at the health of the economy, the health in terms of people having decent jobs at decent pay. And perhaps we need to seriously start to consider the huge wage and welfare gap.  I mean if you start at the top by looking at Parliament where ministers are paid over R2 million just in terms of their salary where with all the perks in terms of transport expenses etc its worth much more and the same applies in the private sector.” Additional reporting Amina Accram and Naledi Ngcobo