Outlook for labour market remains gloomy, data shows

File: There were 7.1 million people without jobs in the first quarter, up from 6.7 million in the previous quarter, Statistics South Africa said.

File: There were 7.1 million people without jobs in the first quarter, up from 6.7 million in the previous quarter, Statistics South Africa said.

AFP/Guillem Sartorio

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's unemployment rate hit a record high in the first quarter of this year as key sectors including agriculture shed jobs, data showed on Tuesday.

There were 7.1 million people without jobs in the first quarter, up from 6.7 million in the previous quarter, Statistics South Africa said.

"This is the first (time) ever that we have hit the 30 percent mark," Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke said.

READ: South Africa's unemployment rate increases by 1%

Under the expanded definition of unemployment, which includes people who have stopped looking for work, the rate was 39.7 percent compared with 38.7 percent in the previous quarter.

The outlook for the labour market remains gloomy, with some of the country's big firms such as steel producer ArcelorMittal South Africa Ltd, food producer Tiger Brands and third-biggest telecom operator Cell C already announcing plans to cut jobs.

With no significant government support offered during the lockdown to the informal, or unregulated, sector -- which according to the World Bank provides employment to 25-30 percent of South African workers -- the impact has been severe for many.

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President Cyril Ramaphosa last week announced a further easing of lockdown restrictions, allowing businesses such as cinemas, casinos, theatres, hair salons and spas to operate under strict social distancing rules.

But some small businesses fear recovery will take longer.

Source
Reuters