South Africa’s unemployment rate increased by 1.7 percentage points to an unprecedented 32.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared from 30.8 percent in the previous quarter.
This is the highest jobless rate since the start of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) in 2008, with more people entering the labour market and actively looking for jobs.
The unemployment rate according to the expanded definition of unemployment, however, decreased by 0.5 of a percentage point to 42.6 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter.
Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) said that the number of unemployed persons increased by 701 000 to 7.2 million compared to the third quarter of 2020.
StatsSA said the number of discouraged work-seekers increased by 235 000, or 8.7 percent.
The number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement decreased by 1.1m between the two quarters, resulting in a net decrease of 890 000 in the not economically active population.
The QLFS also showed that the number of employed persons increased by 333 000 to 15 million in the fourth quarter of 2020
StatsSA said this resulted in an increase of 1 million in the number of people in the labour force.
The statistics agency said employment increased in all sectors in the fourth quarter, with formal and informal sector employment, private households and agriculture all recording positive outcomes.
The formal sector in South Africa accounts for 69.9 percent of total employment.
StatsSA said that trade, construction and agriculture had higher employment shares relative to their gross domestic product (GDP) contribution.
Employment increased in all industries, except finance and mining, with community and social services, construction recording the most gains.