Unemployed men rush towards a bakkie in hopes of securing a job. Picture: THE TIMES
Unemployed men rush towards a bakkie in hopes of securing a job. Picture: THE TIMES

Formal, nonfarm jobs declined marginally on a quarterly basis, Stats SA said on Thursday in its latest publication of quarterly employment statistics (QES).

Although growth on an annual basis was up, it is not at levels needed to employ an expanding population, say economists, and comes as SA remains stuck in one of the longest downward business cycles in almost a century.

Net jobs decreased by 2,000, officially a 0% change during the quarter. On an annual basis, jobs grew 1.4%, with the uptick coming predominantly from the employment of casual workers for the national elections and appointments of provincial community health workers.

The QES measures jobs numbers at private, nongricultural businesses such as factories, firms, offices, and stores, as well as at national, provincial and local government entities.

Growth in jobs numbers came from community services — which includes government — showing an increase of 44,000 jobs during the quarter. Mining, meanwhile, added 3,000 jobs.

Declines in job numbers for the quarter came mainly from manufacturing, business services, construction and electricity, which lost a combined total of 49,000 jobs, according to the Stats SA.

Full-time jobs declined 26,000 over the period, not entirely offset by an increase in part-time jobs of 24,000.

The annual growth rate diverged somewhat from the bad news reported in Stats SA’s separate employment survey, the quarterly labour force survey (QLFS), said Econometrix chief economist Azar Jammine. The most recent QLFS — which is a separate survey, sampling households — showed an annual decline in people in formal-sector employment of 1.3%. 

Although the QES results suggest things may “not be quite as bad as ... thought”, said Jammine, the relatively modest annual growth rate is still not in line with population growth, at 1.6%.    

Gross employee earnings, however, have continued to grow, according to Stats SA and have been steadily increasing since 2015.

Earning  grew 1.7% quarter-on-quarter, mainly due to increases in basic salaries. Annually, basic earnings grew 6.9%. Some of the largest annual increases in basic salary payments were seen in community services, which grew 10.4%; mining, which grew 7.7%; and trade, which grew 7.2%.

“It’s a reflection of the power of the trade unions in many of these industries,” said Jammine. “The unions get a nice big salary increase for the workers that keep their jobs but fewer and fewer [people are employed].”