President Cyril Ramaphosa has reiterated the importance of a swift rebound in employment after the release of new data from the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the third quarter of 2020.
This comes after the survey by Statistics South Africa revealed that unemployment rose to 30.8% on the official definition, an increase of 0.7% from the first quarter of 2020, and to 43.1% on the expanded definition.
In a statement, the Presidency said the results reflect the residual effect of the global Coronavirus pandemic and the national lockdown on the economy, as the labour market takes time to recover.
"The latest data presents a realistic picture of the labour market, as people are now able to search for work and are counted as part of the labour force," said the Presidency.
The President said: "The true test of our recovery will not be how high unemployment rises in the midst of the pandemic, but how quickly it returns to previous levels and lower".
The Presidency said it is encouraging to note that between the second and third quarter, 600 000 more people became employed.
"This shows that green shoots have emerged as economic restrictions were lifted and the epidemic is brought under control. The finance, social and community services and private household sectors made the most gains in terms of headcount, while mining reflected a high increase in percentage terms," reads the statement.
At the same time, however, the number of those who are unemployed - and unemployed youth in particular - rose to its highest level since the survey was initiated. This illustrates the importance of the immediate interventions announced by the President as part of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.
In his address to the nation on Wednesday evening, the President reaffirmed government's commitment to focus relentlessly on implementation in supporting an economic rebound.
Many of the programmes contained in the Presidential Employment Stimulus are being implemented with the recruitment of teacher and school assistants in every part of the country.
The employment stimulus includes measures to protect existing jobs, such as through support for vulnerable teaching posts, early childhood development practitioners, cultural institutions and small-scale farmers.
These measures, alongside an ambitious infrastructure programme which is already showing tangible results, will support a recovery in employment in the short and medium term.
In addition, the fast-tracked implementation of structural reforms through Operation Vulindlela will enable the growth of sustainable employment in the private sector.
The upcoming investment conference will showcase the impact of existing commitments on investment in the economy, and will unveil additional pledges despite a difficult global economic environment.
The President has also called on every sector of society to move forward with renewed hope and determination to build on the work that is now underway.