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QLFS: Jobs regain some momentum in 1Q24

14 May 2024 Thanda Sithole, FNB Senior Economist
Thanda Sithole, FNB Senior Economist

Thanda Sithole, FNB Senior Economist

The Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) data, a household-based employment survey not seasonally adjusted, revealed a resurgence in employment momentum in the first quarter of this year. Employment increased by 21 555 q/q (or 0.1% q/q), rebounding from a decline of 21 587 in 4Q23. However, the unemployment level surged by 330 454 q/q (4.2% q/q) to reach 8,225,889, reflecting a significant influx of new entrants into the labour market. Consequently, the official unemployment rate rose to 32.9% from 32.1%.

The level of employment was up by 552 471 (3.4% y/y) compared to the same quarter last year, indicating that the post-pandemic recovery remains entrenched above the 4Q19 level despite domestic economic challenges.

Key sectorial figures:

The first quarter saw notable employment gains across various sectors:

  • The agricultural sector added 21 046 jobs.
  • Mining and quarrying saw an increase of 8 630 jobs.
  • The manufacturing sector witnessed a substantial gain of 98 853 jobs.
  • Wholesale and retail trade, motor trade, hotels, and restaurants collectively created 108 881 jobs.
  • Jobs in the transport, storage, and communication sector increased by 38 979.
  • The private household sector saw a gain of 44 138 jobs. 

However, several sectors experienced declines in employment:

  • The financial intermediation, insurance, real estate, and business services sector shed 49 803 jobs.
  • The community and social services sector saw a significant decline of 121 959 jobs.
  • The electricity, gas, and water supply sector recorded a loss of 17 233 jobs.
  • The construction sector experienced a notable decrease of 106 394 jobs. 


Despite the uptick in the unemployment rate in 1Q24, we maintain our outlook for a marginal job increase throughout this year. This is supported by our economic growth forecast, which is expected to rise from below 1% last year to 1.2% this year, lifting to 1.5% in 2025 and 1.6% in 2026.

However, we are concerned about the structural constraints on growth that have led to economic growth projections significantly lower than the 5.2% average annual growth realised between 2004 and 2007. During that period, the unemployment rate trended downward, highlighting the significant differences between past growth rates and current projections. Addressing these structural constraints will be critical to achieving sustained economic growth and reducing unemployment rates in the long term.

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