Statistics South Africa has released the unemployment rate for the first quarter, which rose slightly to a new record high of 32.6% from 32.5% in the fourth quarter of 2020. This means that the number of unemployed people now stands at seven million and 242 000.

According to an expanded definition of unemployment that includes those discouraged from seeking work, 43.2% of the labour force was without work in the first quarter.

This is the highest unemployment rate recorded since the start of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) by Statistics South Africa in 2008.

The QLFS of the 1st Quarter of 2021 reveals that in spite of the decrease in the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement, the number of discouraged work-seekers increased by 201 000 (6.9%) between the two quarters, resulting in a net increase of 164 000 in the not economically active population.

Stats SA says to better understand the observed large changes in the key labour market indicators between the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, special tabulations were done to study movements between labour market status categories.

“This was observed that a large number of persons moved from the “employed” status to “not economically active” and “unemployed” categories between the two quarters,” says the organisation.

However, the labour force participation rate was also lower in the first quarter of 2021 as compared to the fourth quarter of 2020 as a result of these movements.

The absorption rate also decreased by 0.2 of a percentage point to 38.0% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the fourth quarter of 2020.

The largest employment decreases were observed in Private households with 70 000, followed by the informal sector with 19 000), and the Agricultural sector with 18 000 the first quarter of 2021.

Employment increases were only observed in the formal sector with 79 000 compared to a year ago, total employment decreased by 1.4 million.

The number of unemployed persons increased by 2.4% or 172 000, while the number of persons who were not economically active increased by 11.6% , which is 1.8 million.

Below is the Quarterly Labour Force Survey of the 1st Quarter of 2021: