Home PodcastAshraf Garda Q1 2023 employment figures reveal struggles amidst seeds of progress

Q1 2023 employment figures reveal struggles amidst seeds of progress

by Luqmaan Rawat
Statistics SA has released the employment figures which show South Africa is still recovering from the Covid pandemic Photo Stats SA

South Africa – In a stark revelation, Statistics SA (Stats SA) has released the employment figures for the first quarter of 2023, painting a distressing picture of the state of the employment sector and the overall economy. The numbers presented serve as a grim reminder of the mounting challenges faced by businesses and individuals alike.

The data for 2023 indicates approximately 97 000 jobs were lost between March 2022 and March 2023 bringing the level of employment to almost 10 million. The survey also showed the total employment in the formal non-agricultural sector decreased by 21 000 in the first quarter of 2023, said Matlapane Masupye, Director responsible for Quarterly employment statistics (QES) at StatsSA.

It is important to note that employment is categorised into two forms: full-time and part-time. Full-time employment refers to individuals working 40 hours or more per week while part-time employment comprises individuals working less than 40 hours per week.

“Analysing the breakdown, from the 9.97 million that are employed, the survey showed that 8.18 million are employed in full-time positions while 1.15 million are employed in part-time positions.”

Photo Stats SA

Full-time and part-time employment trends

The data also provides insights into the movement of full-time and part-time employment. In the case of full-time employment, there was a decrease compared to the previous quarter and a decrease on a year-on-year basis. However, part-time employment witnessed an increase in the current quarter, although there was a drop on a year-on-year basis.

“Quarter to quarter, our full-time [employment] decreased by 63 000. Year on year, we’ve seen a decrease of 24 000 while on the other hand, part-time increased by 42 000 quarter to quarter but year on year it showed a drop of 73 000.”


Breakdown by industry, the highs and lows 

To gain a better understanding of the figures, we have to explore the breakdown of employment by industry. Some industries experienced a decline in employment, while others displayed growth. The notable negative changes are trade, business services and transport and construction. The total loss of the three equaled 72 000 job losses. However, some of these losses can be explained. 

“Trade had a drop of 36 000 followed by business services with a decrease of 32 000 and transport and construction each reported a drop of 2 000 … Normally your festive season is when your trade companies employ a lot of people to meet the demand of the festive season. You’ll have your trading stores employing additional staff members and then again business services will also from their sub sector, they’ll also supply some of the industries with employment. That is why come the first quarter of the new year, you see that drop.

Photo Stats SA

However, there are also industries that have had notable positive changes such as community services, mining, manufacturing and the electrical industry.

“While we are talking about the negatives, there are industries which actually give us some hope. Community services saw an increase of 41 000, mining saw an increase of 5 000, manufacturing 4 000 and lastly electricity 1 000 … Community services and industries consist mostly of government departments. Your national, provincial municipalities, universities, technikons and extra budgeters. What we have discovered is that 41 000, 6 000 came from the Expanded Public Works Programme from the municipalities and others came from the project from the president which is called Presidential Youth Employment Initiative project. It caters for youth to gain necessary skills for employment.”


The prevailing unemployment trend

While certain sectors demonstrate growth, the overall unemployment trend remains a cause for concern. Comparing the employment figures from 2009 to the present, we observe a consistent increase in employment. However, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns resulted in a decline in employment figures. Although there has been a recovery since then, the current employment level is still below the pre-pandemic employment level.

Just before Covid, we registered 10,3 million [employed people] and due to that lockdown, we went down to 9,6 million. Now we are sitting at 9,9 million so it is actually telling us that our employment is actually in a recovery mode from the impact of Covid. We haven’t reached that level of the pre-Covid as yet.”

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The highs and lows of gross earnings and salaries

What also has decreased is the total gross earnings paid to employees. It decreased by R34,1 billion, dropping from R864,2 billion in December 2022 to R830 billion in March 2023. The community services industry reported a decrease of R13,5 billion, followed closely by the trade industry with a decrease of R12,4 billion. The manufacturing industry also recorded a decline of R9,1 billion, while the construction, transport, and electricity industries reported decreases of R4,7 billion, R2,1 billion and R1 billion, respectively.

However, certain industries like the mining industry and the business services industry reported an increase of R551 million and R8,1 billion, respectively. When comparing March 2023 to the same period in the previous year, total gross earnings showed year-on-year growth of R43,2 billion or 5,5%.

Photo Stats SA

Basic salaries/ wages paid to employees also decreased by -1,6% dropping from R751,2 billion in December 2022 to R739,4 billion in March 2023. The business services industry reported an increase of R976 million in basic salary/wages while the mining industry reported a moderate increase of R551 million, followed by the transport industry with an increase of R295 million. When comparing March 2023 to the same period in the previous year, basic salary/wages showed year-on-year increase of R32,7 billion or 4,6%.

The latest unemployment figures for 2023 provide valuable insights into the employment landscape, highlighting both positive and negative trends. While certain sectors demonstrate growth, the overall unemployment rate remains a concern. It is essential for policymakers and stakeholders to take these figures into account while formulating strategies to address unemployment and promote inclusive economic growth. By focusing on sectors that show potential for growth and implementing targeted interventions, it is possible to create opportunities for employment and mitigate the risks associated with unemployment.

Matlapane Masupye spoke to Ashraf Garda on the importance of these statistics and how they ensure their reliability. Listen to that discussion here: 

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