The national statistics agency revealed that the official unemployment rate increased by one percentage point to a record 30.1 percent of the labour force in the first quarter of this year compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.

In its quarter labour force survey, Statistics South Africa said the number of employed people decreased by 38,000 to 16.4 million while that of the jobless increased by 344,000 to 7.1 million between the fourth and first quarters.

This resulted in a rise of 306,000 in the labour force. 

“The largest employment decreases were observed in the formal sector (50,000), followed by the agricultural sector with 21,000 in Q1 2020,” Stats SA said. 

“On the other hand, employment in the informal sector and private households increased by 3,000 and 30,000 respectively.

Effectively, the number of unemployed people in South Africa has soared to 7.1 million from 4.6 million a decade ago.

Stats SA said over 8.5 million or 41.7 percent of South Africa’s 20.4 million young people aged 15-34 years were neither employed nor getting education or training of any kind, a 1.1 percentage point increase over the same quarter last year.

South Africa’s unemployment rate increased by 1 percentage point to 30,1% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the fourth quarter of 2019. Picture: EPA/Nic Bothma.

The number of employed persons decreased in five of South Africa’s nine provinces, with the largest declines recorded in the Free State, North West and Western Cape.

Compared the same quarter last year, the largest increases in employment were recorded in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, followed by Mpumalanga and the and Northern Cape.

South Africa’s economy has already starting shedding jobs in the fallout from the prevailing global Covid-19 pandemic which initially brought business activity to a near-total standstill when the government imposed a nationwide lockdown from March 27 to try and limit transmissions of the virus.

People quickly took to twitter in reaction to the statistics. 

In a weekly newsletter on Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa warned that the economy was set for a tough period ahead, with predictions of businesses shutting down and people losing their jobs now materialising.

-ANA, Editing by Stella Mapen