Formal sector jobs moderately up in fourth quarter

New employment figures released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) showed that South Africa’s formal non-agricultural sector added 16 000 jobs in the fourth quarter of 2019, bringing the total number of persons employed in the formal non-agricultural sector to 10,2 million. The Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) reported that formal sector jobs rose by 18 000 in the fourth quarter compared with the same period of 2018.


Employment in the trade industries continued to trend up in the fourth quarter, adding 39 000 jobs (29 000 full-time and 10 000 part-time). Growth in employment was also reported by the business services industry, which added 12 000 jobs, with the community services industry up by 3 000 jobs.

In the fourth quarter, the construction and mining industries shed 17 000 and 15 000 jobs respectively, whilst the manufacturing and transport industries reported a moderate loss of 4 000 and 2 000 jobs respectively.

Gross earnings paid for the quarter ended December 2019 increased by R52,3 billion. The total amount of gross earnings measured for the quarter was R776,4 billion. This is up from R724,1 billion in the previous quarter. There was a 5,1% year-on-year increase in earnings in the current quarter compared with December 2018, amounting to R37,9 billion.

The increase in earnings was dominated by the business and community services industries with R12,3 billion and R12,0 billion, respectively. This was followed by the trade industry with R9,4 billion, the manufacturing industry with R8,1 billion, the transport industry with R4,5 billion, the construction industry with R3,2 billion and the electricity industry with R1,7 billion. Earnings in the mining and quarrying industry increased by R887 million.

Average monthly earnings were measured at R22 500 in the formal non-agricultural sector of the economy in November 2019. This is a 0,6% increase when compared to August 2019, and an annual increase of 4,5%.

AME for data story

The current Quarterly Employment Statistics (QES) survey results are based on a sample drawn from the 2019 Business Sampling Frame (BSF) of Stats SA, which contains enterprises registered for value added tax (VAT) at the South African Revenue Service (SARS). The BSF is continuously updated by adding new enterprises and ceasing dormant enterprises.

To measure the impact of changing the sample, parallel collection in both the 2018 and 2019 samples has been going on for two quarters. Results from the parallel collection show that the 2019 sample generates higher employment compared to the 2018 sample, reflecting the growth in the business register. However, new businesses start gradually over a period of time, not as a once-off event. This must be reflected in the employment trends. Nonetheless, there is a lag between growth or declines in the business register and the drawing of new samples. Therefore, to reflect the dynamics of birth and deaths of businesses, employment figures reported from June 2018 to September 2019 have been revised using adjustment factors generated from the parallel collection to avoid a break in series.

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