Unemployment figure was expected to be higher: Economist

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Economist Azar Jammine says although there is a slight increase in the unemployment figure, it was expected to be higher than 33%.

On Tuesday, StatsSA released its latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the first quarter of 2021, which indicates a marginal increase in the number of unemployed people in the country, to an all-time high of 32.6%.

This is an increase of 0.1 of a percentage point from 32.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, meaning that the number of unemployed people has increased by 28 000 – taking the number to almost 7.2 million South Africans.

The unemployment rate according to the expanded definition increased to 43.2% in the first quarter.

Dr Azar Jammine on SA’s highest unemployment rate on record

Jammine says most of those who have lost jobs are in the informal sector.

“Employment creation in the formal sector was a positive 79 000. Formal sector benefited but informal employment for domestic workers and employment for agricultural workers all declined by more than the number of jobs created in the informal sector.  That is a reflection of the manner in which the COVID-19 crisis exacerbated inequality,” says Jammine.

Unemployment increases to 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021: Johannes Khosa

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) reacted to the shocking unemployment figures by saying the government must do more to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

SAFTU says the manufacturing sector had at one time composed 20% of GDP but has declined to just 11%.

SAFTU General-Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says the country has not started to deal with the economic crisis.

“We’re calling for a real stimulus package that will be above a trillion rand to make sure that the manufacturing sector is saved- to ensure that the jobs that are now at risk as we enter the third wave of the coronavirus are saved. To introduce a basic income grant to ensure that the number of women that are looking after our children are reduced by ensuring that we support them more directly and so that we can put the economy in a growth path,” says Vavi.

Reaction to Quarterly Labour Force figures: Zwelinzima Vavi