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Anton Ferreira

Anton Ferreira

Job growth has ground to a near halt as the economy slows and analysts say it could get worse before it gets better.

Statistics SA yesterday released job figures for the first quarter which showed a modest annual increase of 2,1percent and a rise of just 0,1percent - or 8000 jobs - over the previous quarter.

The best performing sector was mining and quarrying, with a 4,5percent annual increase, while the worst was manufacturing with a decrease of 0,8percent.

"The figures were very much in line with my expectations, mainly of a slowdown in the rate of job creation," said Azar Jammine of Econometrix. "But we're still not seeing the massive job losses that people have been scared of."

Chamber of Mines economist Roger Baxter said the job figures told the story of the power cuts - despite healthy annual growth in hiring in mining, there was zero growth from the last quarter of 2007 to the first quarter of this year. "Last year 40000 jobs, this year nothing so far," he said.

"It seems strategically not the right thing to do, to force electricity supply curtailment on one of your major export sectors when you're running a current account deficit of nine percent."

Baxter said the outlook for future job creation was no better than "stable".

In the manufacturing sector, strong export demand for vehicles saved the sector from more dramatic losses.

Norman Lamprecht, executive manager of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers, said that despite weakening conditions in the domestic market, "from the production side everything is in place for record production for exports".

Lamprecht said employment in the vehicle making industry was "relatively high and stable".