Unemployment rate goes through the roof in South Africa

SA Stats - Unemployment Rate 2019
SA Stats – Unemployment Rate 2019, image: SA Stats

Stats SA (Statistics South Africa) released a QLFS (Quarterly Labour Force Survey) showing an alarming increase in unemployment in South Africa over the years.  Unemployment in South Africa has inched to the worst rate of 29.1% in the 3rd Quarter of 2019 (Q3 of 2019).

The QLFS system has been in force and used in measuring the unemployment rate since 2008. Early this year, the province with the highest unemployment rate was North West in 40.3% in the 1st quarter, followed by Northern Cape standing at 37.7%, with just a 0.4% difference compared to KZN.  These are the highest rate of young people aged 15 – 24 years (Unemployed and/or not participating in any studies).

In the first quarter of 2019 unemployment rate was standing at 27.6%, a 0.5% decrease from the 27.1% reported in Q4 of 2018.

We can confirm that in the 3rd quarter, the unemployment rate increased by 0.1% from a reported 29% in the second quarter.










South Africa



Official Unemployment rate
Jul-Sep 2018 Apr-Jun 2019 Jul-Sep 2019 Qtr-to-qtr


Year-on-year change
Percent Percentage points



 29. 0  29.1  0.1  37.5


The province with the highest unemployment rate in the 3rd quarter is Western Cape, and the province with the least employment rate is Limpopo.  In comparison to a year ago, employment has decreased by 5 000, increasing the number of unemployed people to 8.4% (524 000), people who are economically inactive increased by 0.5% (78 000).

Courtesy of TE

Calendar GMT Actual Previous Consensus Forecast
2019-02-12 09:30 AM Unemployment Rate Q4 27.1% 27.5% 27.40%
2019-05-14 09:30 AM Unemployment Rate Q1 27.6% 27.1% 27.60%
2019-07-30 09:30 AM Unemployment Rate Q2 29% 27.6% 27.80%
2019-10-29 09:30 AM Unemployment Rate Q3 29.1% 29% 29.1% 29.4%
2020-02-11 09:30 AM Unemployment Rate Q4 27.3%

Source: tradingeconomics.com


Unemployment increased by 78 000 to 6.73 million, whereas employed increased by 62 000 to 16.38 million. In regard to gender, the jobless rate went up 0.6% from 27.1% in Q2 while it decreased by 0.6% for women.  Youth unemployment went up from 56.4% to 58.2%.

The system used to determine the number of unemployed people is categorized into two sections which are official and expanded results – this may raise the questions as to who is actually working and who isn’t in South Africa – There are people who are not counted, it is not everyone who needs a job and thus the results may be flawed – because such individuals are not economically active.

Basically, when you are actively looking for a job, you will be considered officially unemployed by StatsSA.  Unemployed people who do not look for a job will not be counted as unemployed but may fall under expanded unemployment figures consistent with International Labour Organization (ILO) logic.

In regard to population groups, you find a very high percentage of jobless black African people in comparison with white people.

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