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Unemployment Jumps 52% in Third Quarter

Unemployment Jumps 52% in Third Quarter

Stats SA has published the latest unemployment statistics for the third quarter of 2020, providing a clearer indication of how the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown affected jobs in South Africa. The results of the QLFS for the third quarter of 2020 shows a large movement out of the “other not economically active” category to “employed” and “unemployed” categories between the second quarter and third quarter of the year.

This paints a more realistic picture of how the lockdown impacted employment in the country. For the second quarter data, Stats SA handled the jobs lost as a result of lockdown by removing them from the workforce, rather than designating them as unemployed. The result was a decrease in the country’s unemployment rate.

The latest stats indicates the unemployment rate at 30.8% with the broader definition (which includes discouraged work seekers) at 43.1%. The number of employed people increased by 543,000 (3.8%) t0 14.7 million compared to the second quarter of 2020 but employment remains nearly 1.7 million below that of the 3rd quarter of 2019.

Unemployment saw a drastic increase of 2.2 million (52.1%) compared to the second quarter of 2o2o. Discouraged job seeker numbers increased by 225,000 and the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement decreased by 2.9 million between the two quarters.

Simply stated, this means that of the 2.85 million people who ‘left’ the workforce due to the lockdown, only 543,000 managed to get their jobs back.  Thus 2.2 million unemployed, and 225,000 joining the group of discouraged work seekers.


On the positive side, all sectors are increasing employment once again. However, this comes with the caveat that the numbers are still well below those presented before the lockdown.

  • Formal sector employment increased by 242,000 (2.4%);
  • Informal sector employment by 176,000 (7.7%);
  • Private households by 116,000 (11.5%) , and
  • Employment in Agriculture increased by 9,000 (1.1%).

Employment increased for all industries, except utilities and transport. The industries which gained the most jobs were finance (200,000), community and social services (137,000) and private households (116,000).

Most job losses were observed in trade (400,000), manufacturing (300,000), community and social services (298,000) and construction work (259,000).




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