South Africa’s unemployment rate of 32,5% is the highest since 2008, with the number of unemployed people increasing by 701 000 to 7,2-million in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared to the third quarter of 2020.

This is according to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the fourth quarter of 2020, which also showed that the number of employed persons increased by 333 000 to 15-million.

There was an increase of 1-million (up by 4,9%) in the number of people in the labour force.

The number of discouraged work-seekers increased by 235 000 (8,7%), and the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement decreased by 1,1-million (7,4%) between the two quarters, resulting in a net decrease of 890 000 in the not economically active population.

The movement was proportionately more towards the unemployed than for the employed, which resulted in a significant increase of 1,7 percentage points in the official unemployment rate to 32,5% – the highest since the start of the QLFS in 2008.

The unemployment rate according to the expanded definition of unemployment decreased by 0,5 of a percentage point to 42,6% in quarter 4 2020 compared to the third quarter of 2020.

Employment increased in all sectors in the fourth quarter of 2020. Formal sector employment increased by 189 000 (1,8%); Informal sector employment by 65 000 (2,6%); Private households by 76 000 (6,8%), and employment in Agriculture increased by 2 000 (0,3%).

Additional questions in the latest survey reveal that, of the 150-million persons who were employed during the fourth quarter, almost eight out of 10 (78,3%) were expected to work during the national lockdown by the companies/organisations they work for.

Compared to the third quarter of 2020, where 10,9% indicated that they worked from home, the number of people working remotely declined to 8% in the fourth quarter of 2020. Working from home was more prevalent in Gauteng and Western Cape and among Professionals and Managers.