South Africa had almost 500 000 more people in employment during the first quarter than a year earlier as the rand’s recent weakness led manufacturers to boost hiring to capitalise on a rise in demand for local exports, according to Stats SA.
The financial arena also underpinned the hiring gains, offsetting job losses in the public sector, construction, transport and communications sectors. On a year-on-year basis, employment rose by 3.4 percent given that there were 496 000 more jobs in January to March than in the same period last year, data released by Statistics SA yesterday showed.
However, the underlying tone of the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) was mixed as the data also revealed the impact of seasonal factors, especially in the first quarter, which is traditionally a time when employers let go workers who were taken on for the Christmas holiday shopping season.
Business Report covered the story here.
But as we previously pointed out, employment figures in SA can be notoriously misleading. If you include all South Africans engaged in some kind of economic activity, the unemployment rate is probably as low as 11%, and not the 25% commonly cited by economists. This is because we tend to focus on the formal sector to the exclusion of the informal sector, which now accounts for 18% of economic activity and which is growing at a blistering pace.
Still, the news from Stats SA is comforting, given the barrage of bad economic news over recent years. As Business Report points out, employment is a big election issue heading into the election, with the ruling ANC contending that the National Development Plan is a formula to create jobs, a claim disputed by the opposition Democratic Alliance.