SA unemployment drops, job losses halted


South Africa’s official unemployment rate edged lower in the fourth quarter of 2009, halting the massive job losses that had accompanied the country’s first recession in nearly two decades.

Statistics South Africa said yesterday unemployment fell to 24.3% from 24.5% in the third quarter, with the economy creating 89 000 new jobs during the final three months of last year.

Africa’s biggest economy registered positive annualised growth in the third quarter of last year exiting its first recession since 1992 after three consecutive quarters of contraction in which hundreds of thousands of jobs were slashed.

The uptick in the fourth quarter left job losses for the year at 870 000 and Stats SA officials warned that most of the jobs created were in the informal sector, pointing to still-tough conditions in formal industries.
“The haemorrhaging might have been stopped, but it has been stopped by the informal sector, so that worrying factor must be taken into context,” said Kefiloe Masiteng, Deputy Director-General for Population and Social Statistics at Stats SA.

The expanded definition of unemployment, which includes people who have stopped looking for work, fell slightly to 34.2% from 34.4%.
“After three consecutive quarters of massive job losses, the 4th quarter of 2009 showed a possible end to the deterioration in the labour market rather than a recovery,” Stats SA said in a statement.

Jobs created were mostly in the informal sector and unskilled work.

The total number of unemployed people stood at 4.165 million in the three months to December, while the number of employed people increased by 89 000 to 12.974 million, the statistics agency said.

Pic: SA currency- Rand