Press Release provided by Stats SA.

Highlights of the results

The working-age population increased by 149 000 or 0,4% in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the fourth quarter of the previous year. Compared to Q1: 2018, the working-age population increased by 605 000 or 1,6%. The number of employed persons decreased by 237 000 to 16,3 million in Q1: 2019, while the number of unemployed persons increased by 62 000 to 6,2 million compared to Q4: 2018, resulting in a decrease of 176 000 (down by 0,8%) in the number of people in the labour force. The absorption rate decreased by 0,7 of a percentage point to 42,6% and the unemployment rate increased by 0,5 of a percentage point to 27,6% compared to the fourth quarter of 2018.

Employment decreased in all four of the sectors in Q1: 2019; with the Formal sector recording the largest employment losses of 126 000, followed by the Informal sector (68 000), Private households (31 000) and Agriculture (12 000). The number of discouraged work-seekers and the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement increased by 156 000 and 169 000, respectively, between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, resulting in a net increase of 325 000 in the not economically active population.

Compared to a year ago, employment decreased by 0,5% (86 000), while unemployment increased by 3,7% (220 000). The number of persons who were not economically active increased by 3,1% (470 000).

Unemployment and Not in employment, education or training (NEET)

After a decrease of 70 000 in the number of unemployed persons in Q4: 2018, the number of unemployed persons increased by 62 000 in Q1: 2019. The number of unemployed persons has increased in every first quarter of each year since 2013. The largest increase was recorded in Q1: 2015 (up by 626 000), followed by Q1: 2016 (up by 530 000) and Q1: 2017 (up by 433 000).

The official unemployment rate increased by 0,5 of a percentage point in Q1: 2019 compared to Q4: 2018. The official unemployment rate increased in six of the nine provinces, with the largest increase in Mpumalanga (up by 2,2 percentage points), Limpopo and Free State (up by 2,0 percentage points each), and Eastern Cape (up by 1,3 percentage points).

KwaZulu-Natal, North West and Gauteng were the only provinces that recorded decreases in the unemployment rate (0,5 of a percentage point, 0,2 of a percentage point and 0,1 of a percentage point, respectively). Year-on-year, the official unemployment rate increased by 0,9 of a percentage point. The official unemployment rate increased in six of the nine provinces; the largest increase was observed in KwaZulu-Natal (up by 2,8 percentage points), followed by Free State (up by 2,1 percentage points), Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape (up by 1,8 percentage points each).

The expanded unemployment rate increased by 1,0 percentage point from 37,0% in Q4: 2018 to 38,0% in Q1: 2019. The largest increase was recorded in Limpopo (up by 4,3 percentage points), followed by Northern Cape and Mpumalanga (up by 2,9 percentage points and 1,9 percentage points, respectively). The expanded unemployment rate for Gauteng remained unchanged, while Western Cape was the only province that experienced a decrease in the expanded unemployment rate (down by 0,4 of a percentage point). Compared to the same period last year, the expanded unemployment rate increased by 1,3 percentage points in Q1: 2019. All provinces recorded an increase in the expanded unemployment rate except for Gauteng where it remained unchanged. The largest increase was recorded in Limpopo (up by 5,5 percentage points), followed by North West and Eastern Cape (up by 2,6 percentage points and 2,3 percentage points, respectively).

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