South Africa’s unemployment rate drops marginally in second quarter

By Kopano Gumbi

PRETORIA (Reuters) -South Africa’s official unemployment rate dropped marginally in the second quarter to 32.6%, its lowest level since the first quarter of 2021, data showed on Tuesday.

Statistics South Africa said the number of people with jobs rose to 16.3 million in April-June, approaching the pre-COVID level of 16.4 million and the seventh consecutive quarterly rise in employment.

Africa’s most industrialised economy has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, with the pandemic exacerbating longstanding structural problems linked to the legacy of apartheid and colonialism.

A major constraint in the last decade has been rolling power blackouts that have slashed the country’s growth potential and hurt businesses of all sizes.

The economy did manage to eke out growth of 0.2% in annual terms in the first quarter of 2023, but the central bank thinks growth would be closer to 2% in the absence of power cuts.

Stats SA data showed the number of unemployed people was 7.921 million in the second quarter, compared with 7.933 million in the first quarter.

According to an expanded definition of unemployment that includes those discouraged from seeking work, 42.1% of the labour force was jobless in April-June, compared with 42.4% in January-March.

Analysts had predicted the official unemployment rate would be 32.9% in the second quarter, the same as in the first.

In a reflection of how the past decade’s anaemic growth has affected joblessness, nearly 3 million more people have become unemployed since the second quarter of 2013.

The proportion of those in long-term unemployment has increased from roughly 67% to 77% over the past 10 years.

(Reporting by Kopano GumbiEditing by Alexander Winning)