South Africa: SA Economy - Jobs Blight Worsens

Unemployed young men in Mamelodi, South Africa wait for an offer of casual labour next to businesses that are trading out of converted shipping containers (file photo).

South Africa's official unemployment rate is north of 30% again, while the expanded definition, which includes discouraged job seekers, has climbed beyond 43%, data for the third quarter of 2020 shows. Both are record highs.

First published in DM168

So it's official: unemployment remains South Africa's national tragedy and President Cyril Ramaphosa's greatest challenge. All the talk about attracting investment and growing the economy will mean nothing if the ranks of the unemployed don't start shrinking.

Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) said on Thursday that the official unemployment rate rose 7.5 percentage points to a record high of 30.8%. But that was off a distorted base in the previous quarter, when many people stopped looking for work or were unable to do so during the hard lockdown to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The results ... for the third quarter of 2020 indicate large movements out of the 'other not economically active' category to 'employed' and 'unemployed' between Q2 and Q3 2020. The number of employed persons increased by 543,000 to 14.7 million compared to the second quarter of 2020," StatsSA said.

"Unemployment increased substantially by 2.2 million to 6.5 million compared to Q2 of 2020 resulting in an increase of 2.8...

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