More people than usual paid a price last quarter for the quest to build a country in which everyone has what apartheid gave only a few. Stats SA revealed last week that unemployment is now at 29%. This horrendous figure triggered alarm in the public debate. Since we are in a bout of national gloom, it was taken as one more sign that the end of this country is near.

Comment last week noted that the figure was the worst in a decade. But little or none of it mentioned that, in 2003, the figure was slightly higher — 29.3% — and the country is, a decade and a half later, still here. Nor that the number has easily exceeded 20% for a long time. To put that in perspective, the highest unemployment rate in the US during the Great Depression was 25%.

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