South African employment prospects remain flat for Q2 of 2013, with job seekers in the wholesale and retail and the transport, storage and communication sectors likely to benefit from the most opportunities. 
According to the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey released today, South African employers are expecting a stagnant labour market during the April – June time frame.
South Africa’s Net Employment Outlook of 0% indicates the percentage of employers who intend to add to their payrolls will be similar to the percentage of those who intend to reduce their workforces in the months ahead.
The Outlook is relatively stable in comparison to the first-quarter forecast and improves by a slight margin of two percentage points when compared to last year at this time.
Despite the cautious nature of the overall forecast, job seekers can expect to find some opportunities in the wholesale and retail trade sector, the electricity, gas and water supply sector, and the transport, storage and communications sectors.
Employers in the restaurants and hotels sector, the manufacturing sector and the construction sector report the weakest second-quarter forecasts.
According to the research, raw data showed that 7% of employers planned on increasing staffing levels, 5% planned on reducing staffing levels and 87% foresaw no change in their staffing levels during the second quarter of 2013. Once seasonal variations are removed from the data, the Outlook stands at 0%.
“Labour issues, which have spread from the mining industry into other sectors such as farming, have had a negative effect on employment plans for many industries.
“Changes in minimum wages combined with the threat of more strikes in different sectors and anticipated changes in BEE as well as land reform policies have made many employers err on the side of caution when planning future staffing levels,” says Lyndy van den Barselaar, MD of the Manpower Group South Africa.
Payroll gains are forecast in six of the 10 industry sectors during Quarter 1 2013. Employers in the wholesale and retail trade sector report the most optimistic hiring plans with a Net Employment Outlook of 7%.
Job gains are also anticipated in the electricity, gas and water supply, the finance, insurance, real estate and business services, the mining and quarrying, the public and social and the transport, storage and communication sectors. Sectors with negative expectations include restaurants and hotels, manufacturing and construction.
“The manufacturing and construction sectors continue to be dogged by lower consumer demand, declining exports and cautious business spending. However, even though it is still in negative territory, the construction sector Outlook improves seven percentage points over the previous quarter.
“Consumers remain careful with their money, spending less on luxuries and dining which is impacting the restaurants sector, while businesses and consumers cut back on travelling and holidays affecting the hotel industry.
“Basic services and necessities such as electricity and water supply continue to show growth in employment, though this may be stunted by government’s recent refusal to allow Eskom to raise rates again. The wholesale and retail trade sector continues to do well off the back of improved consumer spending,” explains Van den Barselaar.
Quarter-over-quarter, forecasts weaken in six of the 10 sectors with the most notable drops in manufacturing, with an Outlook three percentage points weaker than Q1 2013, and agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing and restaurants and hotels, both with Outlooks two percentage points weaker than the first quarter.
Outlooks improve quarter-over-quarter in the wholesale and retail trade sector by six percentage points and in the construction sector by seven percentage points.
Year-over-year results indicate that the eight percentage point drop reported by employers in the agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing sector was the steepest decline, followed by a six percentage point drop in the mining and quarrying sector.
In direct opposite, the construction sector Outlook improved eight percentage points, while Outlooks in the electricity, gas and water supply and transport, storage and communication sectors both improved 6 percentage points.
Of the five regions surveyed, only employers in Gauteng (2%) report negative hiring plans for the second quarter of the year.
The Eastern Cape fared the best of all the regions with an Outlook of 5%. Slow-paced hiring activity is expected in both Free State and the Western Cape with Net Employment Outlooks of 1%. An even flatter hiring pace is expected in KwaZulu-Natal, where employers report a Net Employment Outlook of 0.
Quarter over quarter, Outlooks decline in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal by two and one percentage points, respectively. The Eastern Cape is six points up on Q1 while Outlooks in the Free State and the Western Cape are relatively stable.
Year over year employers in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal report the most improved hiring plans with Outlooks improving six and five percentage points, respectively. Employers in all other regions report year-over-year declines.
“Although we would’ve hoped for more positive results following the holiday season consumer shopping performance as well as some positive commitments from government on business issues following Mangaung, businesses still seem downbeat as to future employment plans.
“With many factors such as the global economy as well as upcoming policy changes in BEE and land reform expected from government, many businesses still seem to be playing a waiting game before committing to any large scale growth and employment plans,” concludes Van den Barselaar.