South Africa’s Employment Rises Above Pre-Covid Levels - BLOOMBERG
NOVEMBER 14, 2023
(Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s employment rose above the level it was before the coronavirus pandemic struck, as finance and community and social service sectors added jobs.
The number of employed people stood at 16.7 million in the three months through September, exceeding the number before the pandemic struck, data released by Statistics South Africa in the capital, Pretoria showed on Tuesday. That’s as the official jobless rate decreased more than expected to 31.9% in the quarter from 32.6% in the prior three months. The median estimate of five economists in a Bloomberg survey was 32.5%.
Unemployment according to the government’s expanded definition, which includes people who were available for work but not looking for a job, stood at 41.2%, compared with 42.1% in the June quarter.
Persistently high unemployment poses a threat to social stability in Africa’s most-industrialized economy and complicates efforts to collect more taxes, reduce the budget deficit and slow debt growth.
It’s also made it harder for the National Treasury to stop funding a social relief grant — a welfare payment the government started providing to low-income households during the coronavirus pandemic.
In its medium-term budget policy statement on Nov. 1, the Treasury allocated 33.6 billion rand ($1.8 billion) for the 350 rand monthly stipend to be extended to March 2025, while warning that any further extension or replacement would require new revenue sources or reprioritization of other spending items.
South Africa’s unemployment rate has now been above 30% since the height of the pandemic in 2020, stoked by rolling power cuts instituted by Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. and logistics constraints, which have hobbled economic growth.
--With assistance from Simbarashe Gumbo, S'thembile Cele and Paul Richardson.