S. Africa records highest quarterly unemployment rate since 2008

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People queue at the Department of Labour to claim money from the unemployment insurance fund on May 04, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. The government began a phased easing of its strict lockdown measures in a bid to cut down on the spread coronavirus. (Photo by Nardus Engelbrecht/Gallo Images via Getty Images)
People queue at the Department of Labour to claim money from the unemployment insurance fund on May 04, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. The country’s COVID-19 epidemic has resulted in widespread job losses since last year. (Photo by Nardus Engelbrecht/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

South Africa’s unemployment rate increased by 1.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 32.5 percent, the highest since 2008, said Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) on Tuesday in its Quarterly Labor Force Survey (QLFS).

Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke said the number of unemployed people increased by 701,000 to 7.2 million in Q4. According to an expanded definition of unemployment that includes those discouraged from seeking work, 42.6 percent of the labour force was without work in the fourth quarter, amounting to 11.1 million people.

The unemployment rate among the black African (36.5 percent) population group remains higher than the national average and other population groups. Black African women are the most vulnerable with an unemployment rate of 38.5 percent.

Youth aged 15-24 years and 25-34 years recorded the highest unemployment rates of 63.2 percent and 41.2 percent respectively.

Stats SA said formal sector employment increased by 189,000 jobs between Q3 and Q4, 2020. Employment gains were observed across all industries with the exception of mining and finance.

“Of the 15 million persons who were employed in Q4, a total of 88.9 percent of the employed continued to receive pay during lockdown in Q4,” said Stats SA, adding that 16.5 percent of those who received pay during lockdown were paid reduced salaries.

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