Ina Opperman
Business Journalist
3 minute read
29 Jun 2021
4:13 pm

Quarterly employment statistics: total employment falls again

Ina Opperman

Little signs the country’s labour market is recovering after 2020 lockdown.

Picture: iStock

The latest quarterly employment statistics for the first quarter of 2021 did not bring South Africa good news as expected, with total employment falling by 552,000 (-5.4%) year-on-year.

Compared to the previous quarter, total employment fell by 9,000 (-0.1%), showing the impact of the lockdown in the first wave of the pandemic.

Prof Jannie Rossouw of the Wits Business School says employment shows signs of levelling out but unfortunately these statistics are not expected to change much for the rest of the year.

“There are signs of economic recovery, but nothing that shows new opportunities were created. We need economic growth with job opportunities and the government must let the private sector get on with it,” Rossouw said.

Total employment

According to Statistics SA, total employment fell from 9,653,000 in December 2020 to 9,644,000 in March 2021, largely due to decreases in employment in trade (-40,000 or -1.9%), business services (-19,000 or -0.9%), construction (-5,000 or -1%) and electricity (-1,000 or -1.7%).

No quarterly change was reported for the transport industry, but employment increased in community and social services (47,000 or 1.7%), mining (5,000 or 1.1%) and manufacturing (4,000 or 0.4%).

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Full-time employment

Full-time employment fell by 63,000 (-0.7%) quarter-on-quarter, from 8,629,000 in December 2020 to 8,566,000 in March 2021 due to less employment opportunities in trade (-28,000 or -1.4%), community and social services (-22,000 or -0.9%), business services (-15,000 or -0.8%), construction (-4,000 or -0.9%) and electricity (-1,000 or -1.8%).

Again, there were no changes in the transport industry between these two quarters and job growth was reported in mining (5,000 or 1.1%) and manufacturing (2,000 or 0.2%).

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Part-time employment

Part-time employment increased by 54,000 or (5.3%) quarter-on-quarter, from 1,024,000 in December 2020 to 1,078,000 in March 2021, mainly due to more jobs in community and social services (69,000 or 16.1%) and manufacturing (2,000 or 2.8%).

The electricity and transport industries reported no change in part-time employment, but a decrease was reported in trade (-12,000 or -5.6%), business services (-4,000 or -1.8%) and construction (-1,000 or -1.5%). Part-time employment increased by 47,000 (4.6%) year-on-year.

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Salaries

Workers also felt the economic conditions in their pockets, with total gross earnings paid to employees declining by R26.8 billion (-3.6%) from R742.1 billion in December 2020 to R715.3 billion in March 2021.

The decrease was largely due to job losses and pay cuts in manufacturing, community and social services, trade, transport, business services, construction and electricity. Only the mining industry reported a quarterly increase. Total gross earnings decreased by R14.1 billion (-1.9%) between March 2020 and March 2021, while basic salary/wages fell by R19.6 billion or (-2.9%) between March 2020 and March 2021.

Basic salaries declined by R4.1 billion (-0.6%) from R651.2 billion in December 2020 to R647.2 billion in March 2021, largely due to decreases in business services, manufacturing, construction, transport and electricity. Increases were reported in the same time for trade, mining and community and social services.

Employees also received less bonuses and overtime, which fell by R22.7 billion (-25%) from R90.9 billion in December 2020 to R68.1 billion in March 2021. However, bonus and overtime payments increased by R5.5 billion or (8.9%) between March 2020 and March 2021.

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