The unemployment rate rose to a near 15-year high in the first quarter of 2019, highlighting the enormity of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plans to recover the country's economy.  Ramaphosa said he wants to lead the country out of “nine wasted years”, a tacit reference to his predecessor Jacob Zuma’s term in office, which was marked by increasingly brazen corruption and state capture. Under Zuma’s watch unemployment soared and economic growth faltered, while confidence in the SA economy fell to new lows. Statistics SA’s quarterly labour force survey revealed on Tuesday that the unemployment rate jumped 0.5 percentage points to 27.6% in the first quarter of 2019.    According to Trading Economics, the unemployment rate averaged 25.66% from 2000 until 2019, reaching a high of 31.20% in the first quarter of 2003 and a record low of 21.50% in the fourth quarter of 2008.

The economy lost 237,000 jobs during the first quarter of 2019. Leading that was the construction sector...

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