The South African economy sheds more than half a million jobs in the 3rd quarter of 2021

According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the 3rd quarter of 2021, the number of employed persons declined by 660 000 to 14,3 million compared to the 2nd quarter of 2021.


The decline in employment is coupled with a decline in the number of unemployed persons to 7,6 million from 7,8 million, resulting in a decline in the labour force and an increase in the official unemployment rate.


South Africa’s unemployment rate in Q3:2021 increased by 0,5 of a percentage point to 34,9%. This is the highest official unemployment rate recorded since the start of the QLFS in 2008. There was an increase in the number of discouraged work-seekers (up by 545 000) and an increase in the number of those that are not economically active (NEA) for reasons other than discouragement (up by 443 000), resulting in a net increase of 988 000 in the NEA population over this period. These results are reflective of a struggling economy suffering high job losses and high levels of economic inactivity, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions and, more recently, the July 2021 social unrest that some parts of the country which experienced, which led to some businesses being permanently closed.


Between the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2021, the number of employed persons decreased in all industries except Finance, where employment increased by 138 000. The Trade industry shed 309 000 jobs, followed by Community and social services with 210 000, and Construction and Private households with 65 000 each. The formal sector was the most affected by job losses while job gains were recorded in the informal sector (an increase of 9 000).

Although all provinces except Northern Cape experienced job losses, the largest employment decreases were recorded in Gauteng (down by 200 000), North West (down by 128 000), KwaZulu-Natal (down by 123 000) and Limpopo (down by 112 000). KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces experienced riots and looting of businesses and these two provinces accounted for almost half (48,9%) of all job losses in the 3rd quarter of 2021 compared to the 2nd quarter of the same year.


During the 3rd quarter of 2021, Stats SA continued to collect data telephonically, instead of the usual face-to-face interviews as a result of the lockdown restrictions. As such, data could not be collected from the full sample but only from households for which contact numbers were available.


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