Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist


Unemployment rate decreases slightly to 31.9%

Employment grew in the third quarter despite various challenges such as slow economic growth and load shedding.


The unemployment rate decreased slightly 0.7% to 31.9% in the third quarter from 32.6% in the second quarter.

According to the results of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) just released by Statistics SA, employment in South Africa increased by 399 000 jobs in the third quarter of the year, with 16,7 million people employed in the quarter compared to 16,3 million in the second quarter. The number of unemployed people decreased 72 000 to 7,8 million.

In addition, the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement decreased 160 000 to 13,1 million, while the discouraged work-seekers decreased by 26 000 compared to the second quarter, resulting in a net decrease of 186 000.

These changes in employment and unemployment resulted in the official unemployment rate. The unemployment rate according to the expanded definition decreased by 0.9 of a percentage point to 41.2% in the third quarter compared to the second quarter.

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Youth unemployment

Although youth employment increased slightly by 1.9 percentage points, the unemployment percentage for people between the ages of 15 and 34 is still very high at 43.4% after reaching 45.3% in the second quarter.

The total number of unemployed youth decreased 174 000 to 4,6 million, while there was an increase of 237 000 in the number of employed youth to 6 million. Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 continued to have the highest unemployment rate at 58% and those between the ages of 25 and 34 years at 38,3%.

The statistics also show that young people are more vulnerable to unemployment when compared to older age groups. Approximately 3,3 million (32.7%) out of 10,2 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 were not employed, or in education or training (NEET).

In addition, the overall NEET rate decreased by 1.8 percentage points in the third quarter compared to the third quarter of 2022.

The graduate unemployment rate also decreased slightly by 1.1 percentage points to 8.5% in the third quarter compared to the second quarter. Young people who do not have matric remain vulnerable with an unemployment rate of 38.8%, higher than the official South African unemployment rate.

Unemployment and employment in different sectors

The formal sector in South Africa accounts for 69.4% of total employment. All the sectors experienced an increase in employment, with formal sector employment increasing by 287 000 jobs from the second to the third quarter.

During the third quarter formal sector employment increased by 287 000 jobs and informal sector jobs by 29 000. The most jobs were created by the finance industry that employed 237 000 more people, followed by community and social services with 119 000 and agriculture with 61 000.

Jobs were lost in manufacturing, where 50 000 jobs were lost, mining (-35 000 jobs), transport (-20 000 jobs) and utilities (-16 000).

ALSO READ: Unemployment increases, almost 5 million youth jobless

Unemployment in the provinces

The unemployment rate decreased in seven provinces from the second to the third quarter. KwaZulu-Natal added the most jobs of all the provinces with 152 000, followed by Limpopo with 70 000, North-West with 61 000 and Mpumalanga with 44 000. Only the Free State recorded job losses with 3 000 jobs lost.

Northwest at 51,2% recorded the highest expanded unemployment rate, followed by Mpumalanga at 46,7%, while the Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal recorded more than a 15 percentage points difference between expanded and official unemployment rates.

While the unemployment rates in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal have consistently been below the official unemployment rate for the past 10 years, the unemployment rate in the Eastern Cape continuously exceeded it.

Black African unemployment rate remains high

The unemployment rate among the Black African population group remains higher than the national average and other population groups at 36%. Black African unemployment rates have been consistently higher than other population groups over the past 10 years.

Labour absorption and labour force participation

The labour absorption rate increased by 0.9 of a percentage point from 40.1% in the second quarter to 41% in the third quarter, while the labour force participation rate increased by 0.6 of a percentage point to 60.2%. The labour force participation rate is the proportion of the working-age population that is either employed or unemployed, while the absorption rate is the proportion of the working-age population that is employed.

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