South Africa’s unemployment rate rose to 27.7 % in the first quarter of 2017, said Statistics South Africa on Thursday.
“What we see is the highest [unemployment] since September 2003,” Statistician General Pali Lehohla said at the release of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) on Thursday.
The QLFS showed that the growth in employment by 144 000 was offset by the growth in the number of job seekers by 433 000, driving the unemployment rate to 27.7%.
According to the survey, on a quarter to quarter basis, the official unemployment rate increased by 1.2%, showing that 6.2 million people were unemployed in the first quarter.
Of the 433 000 that were unemployed, 58% were young people aged 15 to 34. This increased the youth unemployment rate by 1.6% to 38.6%.
“Once this group is unemployed for a period of time, [it] gets harder and harder for them to get jobs,” said Lehohla.
When looking at market rates by education level, the unemployment rate for those with less than matric was at 33.1%, up from 31.2% in the fourth quarter of 2016. The unemployment rate for graduates went up from 7% in the fourth quarter of 2016 to 7.3% in the first quarter of 2017.
Lehohla said the labour participation rate of graduates is higher because the likelihood of them getting jobs is higher and they continue searching for work.
Meanwhile, the increase in unemployment rate was recorded in seven of South Africa’s nine provinces. The highest increase was recorded in the Eastern Cape at 3.8%.