South Africa

Unemployment rises to highest level in a year

South Africa’s first-quarter unemployment rate rose to the highest level in a year, potentially hurting the ruling ANC’s efforts to convince voters of its ability to create jobs ahead of elections on 29 May.  

The official jobless rate climbed to 32.9% in the three months through March from 32.1% in the previous quarter, Statistics South Africa said Tuesday in a report released in the capital, Pretoria. The median estimate of three economists surveyed by Bloomberg was 32.3%.

Unemployment according to the expanded definition stood at 41.9%, which includes people who were available for work but not looking for a job, compared with 41.1% in the December quarter.

Most jobs were shed in the construction and community and social services sectors. Weak consumer demand, frequent power cuts and logistics constraints at the country’s freight-rail system and ports operated by Transnet SOC Ltd. have taken a toll on companies’ profits.

Risenga Maluleke, the head of Statistics SA, told reporters that the unemployment rate rose because of more entrants into the labor force.

The data is likely to be used by opposition parties to attack the ANC’s handling of the economy ahead of May 29 elections. Opinion polls show support for the ANC dipping below 50% for the first time since 1994 due to rampant unemployment and poverty.


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