Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Formal non-agricultural employment loses 194 000 jobs

Unemployment instead of employment seems to be growing in South Africa, with the country losing even more jobs at the end of 2023.

South Africa’s formal non-agricultural employment sector lost 194 000 (-1.8%) jobs during the fourth quarter of 2023, bringing the level of employment to 10.7 million people, while only 98 000 jobs were added between December 2022 and December 2023.

According to the Quarterly Employment Statistics for the fourth quarter, released by Statistics South Africa, the decline in the total number of employees is a decrease from 10 899 000 employed people in September to 10 705 000 employed people in December 2023.

The community services industry was the sector that saw the highest number of job losses at 214 000, followed by the construction industry which lost 19 000 jobs and the business services industry, which experienced a loss of 12 000 jobs. The mining sector reported a moderate decrease, with 1 000 job losses reported during the same period.

On the other hand, there were industries that experienced growth in employment. The trade industry saw an increase of 56 000 jobs, trailed by the transport industry which added 2 000 jobs and the electricity industry that added 1 000 jobs.

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Full-time employment

During the fourth quarter full-time employment decreased by 5 000 jobs, dropping from 9 498 000 people employed fulltime in the third quarter to 9 493 000 in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Statistics SA says several industries witnessed declines in full-time employment:

  • the construction sector lost 13 000 jobs
  • the manufacturing industry lost 12 000 jobs
  • the community services industry lost 11 000 jobs.

However, some industries also reported increases in jobs:

  • the trade industry reported an increase of 31 000 jobs
  • the transport industry added 3 000 jobs
  • the electricity industry added 1 000 jobs.

Year-on-year, the number of full-time jobs increased by 12 000 in December 2023 compared to December 2022.

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Part-time employment

Part-time employment decreased by 189 000 jobs in the fourth quarter, reaching a total of 1 212 000 people who are employed part-time in December 2023 compared to 1 401 000 in September 2023.

Statistics SA says this decrease was mainly driven by job losses in:

  • community services with 203 000 jobs lost
  • business services that lost 9 000 jobs
  • the construction industry that lost 6 000 jobs
  • the transport industry that reported a loss of 1 000 jobs.

However, certain industries experienced an increase in part-time employment:

  • the trade industry added 25 000 jobs
  • the manufacturing industry added 5 000 jobs
  • electricity remained unchanged for the quarter.

Year-on-year the number of part-time jobs increased by 86 000 in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared to the fourth quarter of 2022.

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This is how much employees earned

Employees’ total gross earnings increased 5.8%, totalling R995.6 billion in December compared to R941.3 billion in September 2023.

This upswing was primarily driven by the growth in earnings in the trade industry where earnings increased by R15.1 billion, manufacturing where it increased by 12.6 billion, construction R7.3 billion, business R7.1 billion, community services R5.8 billion, transport R4.7 billion, electricity R1.8 billion and mining by R216 million.

According to Statistics SA basic salaries or wages increased by R7,9 billion (0.9%) in December 2023 to reach R857 billion, primarily driven by growth in the trade, manufacturing, construction, business services, transport, electricity and mining industries. However, there was a decline in the community services industry again.

Year-on-year employees’ basic salaries or wages increased by R43.6 billion (5.4%) from December 2022 to December 2023.

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Bonus and overtime payments

Bonus payments increased by R45 billion (69%) to reach R110 billion and growth was noted in trade and manufacturing, followed closely by community services, construction, transport, business services, construction and electricity. However, bonus payments fell by 4.5% or R5.2 billion from December 2022 to December 2023.

Overtime payments increased by 6.1 % or R1.6 billion to reach R28.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2023, with growth observed in all industries. Employees’ overtime payments increased year-on-year by R3.6 billion, an increase of 14.5% from December 2022 to December 2023.

Employees’ average monthly earnings increased 1.6% in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter, from R26 471 in August 2023 to R26 894 in November 2023. Average monthly earnings grew by 2.3% year-on-year.

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