Statistics SA says 2.2 million jobs were lost in South Africa in the second quarter of 2020.

It has released the unemployment figures for the second quarter, announcing that the unemployment rate decreased to 23.3% from 30.1% in the first quarter.

There were 4.2 million people unemployed in the second quarter, compared with 7.1 million unemployed people in the first quarter. Stats SA says the reason for the decline in the unemployment rate, is that fewer people were actively looking for work during alert stages five and four of the lockdown. People who were not looking for work were not classified as unemployed.

Statistician General Risenga Maluleke says the decrease is not surprising.

“All over the world we have seen a decline in the number of those who are employed as well as the number of those who are unemployed because when countries issued that lockdowns at different stages people could not actively look for employment, only the US and Canada showed increases in those that are employed and those that are unemployed, but otherwise phenomenon is all over the world.”

The largest increase in unemployment was recorded in the Northern Cape, followed by the Eastern Cape.

‘Jobless rate unacceptable’

The country’s biggest labour federation, Cosatu, says the latest unemployment numbers are unacceptable.

Cosatu national spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla, says national treasury and government are to blame for failing to come up with convincing proposals to turn the economy around before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We should not be distracted by the lockdown the reality is that the fourth quarter of 2019 for the first time this country failed to absorb new workers during the festive season that was a sign this economy was already on a descent, COVID-19 exacerbated an already bad situation. If you look at the figures they are depressing, the south African economy 60 percent of it is dependent on consumer spending so people participating meaningfully on the economy are on the side-lines , at a time when globally people are not consuming our commodities.”

Cosatu says the new unemployment numbers have given them a revitalised reason to continue with their planned march next week. The union believes unemployment will get worse because they are seating with more and more section 189 applications where companies are expressing their intentions to retrench.

“These numbers are proof that the working class is under siege, so we are going on strike on the seventh of October, the fact that we see a raise in unemployment, the fact that the economy is declining at a rate that it is, it is also a fact that ten percent of our budget is linked to corruption according to the Auditor General , if we don’t tackle issues  of corruption which id suffocating this economy the situation is only going to get worse from here.  So we are urging all workers to draw their names from here,” says Pamla.

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) says these numbers are not a true reflection of the current state of unemployment in the country.

The federation’s General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says Stats SA had challenges collecting unemployment data for the second quarter and postponed the release of the numbers. He says they will be joining Cosatu next week to protect against the current jobs blood bath and corruption.

“They could not even send out people to walk in the stress and do a proper survey , they had to relay on the telephones and during that period no one would go out and look for employment. And yes the figures are not giving us the total picture. And we believe the real figures including COVID are way above than what we are being told.”

Vavi reacts to unemployment rate: