Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist


Economy loses 97 000 jobs in a year

Formal employment is declining in South Africa but while some industries shed more jobs, others employed more people.


The economy lost another 97 000 jobs in the formal non-agricultural sector between March last year and March this year, while 21 000 job losses were reported in the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2022, which means that almost 10 million people are employed.

According to Statistic SA’s Quarterly Employment Statistics for the first quarter, the losses were observed across various sectors, while some sectors added jobs.

The trade industry bore the brunt of the job losses, with a decrease of 36 000 jobs. The business services sector was second, with a decline of 32 000 jobs while the transport and construction industries both experienced a reduction of 2 000 jobs.

However, some sectors were more resilient and recorded job gains during the same period, with the community services industry contributing significantly by adding 41 000 jobs. The mining industry also experienced a positive upswing with a gain of 5 000 jobs, while the manufacturing industry added 4 000 jobs and the electricity industry 1 000 jobs.

The latest report also provides insight into employment figures in industries before and after the Covid-19 pandemic, with five out of eight industries, business services, construction transport, trade and electricity failing to return to pre-pandemic employment levels.

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Decrease in fulltime employment

There was a decrease in full-time employment in the first quarter, with 63 000 jobs lost from December 2022 to March 2023.

Statistics SA says job losses were recorded in the business services industry with a decline of 57 000 jobs, followed by the trade industry with a decrease of 14 000, the community services industry with a decrease of 5 000 jobs and the transport industry losing 3 000 jobs.

Compared to the same period last year, full-time employment in the first quarter registered a year-on-year decline of 24 000 jobs.

It seems that part-time jobs made up for full-time jobs, with jobs surging by 42 000 compared to the fourth quarter, increasing from 1 110 000 in December 2022 to 1 152 000 in March.

The community services industry was the leading contributor, adding 46 000 jobs, while the business services industry added 25 000 jobs and the transport industry 1 000.

There was no change in the electricity industry’s employment levels.

However, not all industries were keen on part-time workers and some industries experienced job losses during the first quarter, such as the trade industry that lost 22 000 jobs, the construction industry 7 000 and the manufacturing industry 1 000 jobs.

When comparing March 2023 to the same period in the previous year, there was a decline of 73 000 jobs in part-time employment.

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How much did formally employed people earn

Employees’ total gross earnings decreased by R34,1 billion, dropping from R864,2 billion in December 2022 to R830 billion in March and several industries experienced significant decreases.

The community services industry reported a decrease of R13,5 billion, followed by the trade industry with a decrease of R12,4 billion, the manufacturing industry with a decline of R9,1 billion, the construction industry with R4,7 billion, transport industry with R2,1 billion and electricity industry with R1 billion.

The business services industry stood out by reporting an increase of R8,1 billion for its employees, while the mining industry experienced an increase of R551 million. When comparing March 2023 to the same period last year, total gross earnings showed year-on-year growth of R43,2 billion or 5,5%.

Basic salary or wages paid to employees decreased by R11,8 billion, a decline of -1,6%, dropping from R751,2 billion in December 2022 to R739,4 billion in March.

The trade industry, community services, manufacturing, construction and electricity all reported notable decreases, contributing to the overall decline in basic salary or wages.

The business services industry reported an increase of R976 million in basic salary or wages, while the mining industry reported a moderate increase of R551 million, followed by the transport industry with an increase of R295 million.

When comparing March 2023 to the same period in the previous year, basic salary or wages showed a year-on-year increase of R32,7 billion or 4,6%.

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Significant decline in bonus payments

Bonus payments declined significantly by R22,5 billion, from R89,5 billion in December 2022 to R66,9 billion in March 2023.

The community services, trade, manufacturing, construction, transport and electricity industries all contributed to the overall decline in bonus payments.

Statistics SA said despite the overall decrease, the business services industry showed an increase in bonus payments of R7,1 billion or 24,0%.

When comparing March 2023 to the same period in the previous year, bonus payments exhibited growth with a year-on-year increase of R7,7 billion or 13,0%.

Overtime payments increased marginally by R0,2 billion, rising from R23,5 billion in December 2022 to R23,7 billion in March, growing by 0,8% during this period.

The community services, trade, electricity and business services industries contributed to the overall increase in overtime payments.

The manufacturing, construction and transport industries reported decreases in overtime payments.

A comparison of March 2023 to the same period in the previous year, shows significant growth in overtime payments with the year-on-year increase of R2,8 billion or 13,6% indicating a positive trend in overtime payments.

Average monthly earnings in the formal non-agricultural sector decreased by 2,7%, declining from R26 002 in November 2022 to R25 304 in February 2023.

This decrease was observed across various industries, except for the business services industry, which reported an increase of 1,7%.

Despite the quarter-on-quarter decrease, average monthly earnings in the formal non-agricultural sector exhibited substantial growth on a year-on-year basis, with the data showing an increase of 6,8% between the corresponding periods of the previous year.

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