Job stats 'puzzling'

Kea' Modimoeng

Kea' Modimoeng

Statistics South Africa has released what economists and trade unions regard as the most "surprising" results in the fourth quarter Labour Force Survey.

According to the results announced yesterday, the number of unemployed people declined by six percent compared to the previous quarter.

Mike Schussler, economist at T-SEC, said the statistics were "surprising".

The six percent drop in unemployment for one quarter is huge, considering that it happened in a quarter where the economy slowed down massively.

"The drop is surprising because one would expect an increase in joblessness because of the economic climate," Schussler said.

Kevin Lings, economist at Stanlib, also said the results were surprising considering the global economic downturn.

"It is very unfortunate because the report doesn't fit well with what we see in reality.

"The manufacturing and mining sectors have retrenched in large numbers but this doesn't reflect in the report.

Lings said it would be important to observe the trend in the next quarterly results.

The report also says the number of discouraged work seekers increased by nine percent compared to the previous quarter.

Fanie Joubert, economist at the Efficient Group said the reported decline was questionable. He believed though that the nine percent increase in the number of discouraged job seekers could be accepted.

Patrick Craven, national spokesperson for the Congress of South African Trade Unions said the report was "puzzling".

"It is difficult for us to understand how employment could increase in a period where the GDP (gross domestic product) declined. We shall have to look very closely to see where these new jobs have been created," said Craven.

Kefiloe Masiteng, deputy director-general at Stats SA said the six percent decline in unemployment rate could be attributed to the nine percent increase in the number of discouraged job seekers and casual jobs created in the construction and household sectors.

"For instance, there was an increase of employment in the construction sector and this might be as a result of the infrastructure projects currently under way," said Masiteng.

However, she said it should be noted that most of the jobs created were casual jobs which were short term.