14/02/2018 11:10 SAST | Updated 14/02/2018 11:13 SAST

SA Unemployment Rate Has Dropped, But Not Everyone Is Happy

Can the tiny drop in SA's unemployment rate in the final quarter of 2017 carry on and grow stronger?

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On Tuesday, Statistics SA released the latest employment figures – and while they are supposed to bring joy instead of sadness, they are doing the latter.

The figures are from the fourth quarter of 2017, and should warrant champagne – but are they really helpful, when so many people are saying: "I am still unemployed"?

The report has shown that there has been a slight decline in the unemployment rate to 26.7 percent in the final quarter of 2017, as 6.2-million people were reportedly employed, while 5.9-million became unemployed.

But worryingly, according to StatSA, more than two-thirds of unemployed people have been without a job for a year or longer.

The report further says that although there are 37.5-million people of working age between 15 and 64 in South Africa, 15.5-million people are not economically active, including students, homemakers, the disabled and those too young or too old. There are 2.4-million who are also discouraged and not looking for work. That leaves just under 20-million people in the workforce, both employed and unemployed but looking for work.

Jobs in the formal sector have shown an upward trend, growing from 9.9-million in 2008 to 11.2-million in 2017. Informal-sector jobs increased from 2.4-million in the first quarter of 2008 to 2.8-million in 2017.

Last year's third-quarter result was disappointing, with 27.1 percent of the population unemployed – the highest in 13 years. As if that wasn't bad enough, it was reported that the country's economy would grow by a mere 0.8 percent in 2017.

The unemployment rate in South Africa has generally been climbing steeply over the past few years, and the trend has shown little sign of improvement, apart from occasional successes like the 0.4 percentage-point drop in the final three months of last year.

But is this tiny drop in unemployment a trend we can maintain?