02/06/2017 16:13 SAST | Updated 02/06/2017 17:01 SAST

9.3 Million People Who Looked For Work Couldn't Find Any In First Quarter -- StatsSA

Unemployment is now at its highest rate since September 2003. We dissect the figures.

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Workers at a clothing factory at an industrial town of Newcastle.

An increase of 144,000 people in employment in the first quarter (Q1) of 2017 hasn't halted an overall increase in the country's official unemployment rate to 27.7%. This is the highest rate since September 2003, according to StatsSA's Quarterly Labour Force Survey released on Thursday.

Growth in the number of job-seekers by 433,000 between January and March 2017 means approximately just one third of the jobs needed to prevent a rise in the unemployment rate was created.

Young people, the survey shows, constitute a majority of the newly unemployed. Approximately 58% of the 433,000 additional job-seekers during the first quarter were young people between the ages of 15 and 34, the release said. This increase in youth unemployment of 1.6% brings the overall youth unemployment rate to 38.6%.

The expanded unemployment rate -- which includes those who wanted to work but did not or could not seek employment -- rose by 391,000. This increases the overall expanded unemployment rate by 0.8% to 36.4%, or 9.3 million people who wanted to but couldn't find work.

Year-on-year trends
A rise in overall unemployment in the first quarter of the year, StatsSA said, is a pattern observed annually, usually following a reduction in unemployment in the final three months (Q4) of each year. The number of additional job-seekers in the first quarters of 2015, 2016 and 2017, however, has been notably higher than in preceding years.

QLFS Q1 Report - StatsSA

Overall, South Africa's official unemployment rate increased by 1% year-on-year since the first quarter of 2016 despite overall growth in employment levels of 3.4% year-on-year. This means despite gains in employment, the additional number of job-seekers in the country is rising faster than the number of jobs created.

Annual employment gains, nevertheless, were observed in six metros including Ekurhuleni (152,000), eThekwiki (76,000) and the City of Johannesburg (66,000) according to the report. Decreases in Mangaung (18,000) and in the City of Cape Town (5000) compared to the same period last year were observed.

Employment changes by industry and sex
Despite a quarterly improvement in the number of mining jobs, an overall decrease of 5.1% in employment in mining was recorded year-on-year. Both quarterly and annual statistics reveal positive trends in manufacturing (3.6% growth in Q1 and 8.8% growth year-on year), finance (2.1% in Q1 and 6.8% year-on-year) and construction (1.5% in Q1 and 10.5% year-on-year) among other sectors.

Overall year-on-year growth by sex in the number of people employed showed improvements of 5% for women and 2.2% for men.

QLFS Q1 Report - StatsSA

The Quarterly Labour Force Survey is a survey of approximately 30 000 dwellings and provides insight into the 'description of the employed and unemployed' including demographic profiles, education levels and hours of work. This is different than the Quarterly Employment Statistics which uses a different methodology, sample size and scope of coverage. The full report is available here.