SA loses 79 000 jobs

CONTRARY to promises of 500000 new jobs by the government last year, employment in the first quarter of this year continued its downward trajectory.

Quarterly Employment Statistics released by Stats SA yesterday showed that jobs in the formal, non-agricultural business sector decreased by 79 000 people or 1percent in the quarter ending in March, to an estimated 8,084million employees.

Gross earnings paid to the employees amounted to R289,43billion, a decrease of 4,6percent or R13,9billion compared to the previous quarter ended December.

Employment numbers were down 242000 between the end of March last year and March this year.

Efficient Group economist Dawie Roodt said the 242000 annual loss was an improvement from the previous loss of 1million jobs the previous year - because of the global recession.

"It's still a huge number, but it shows that losses are slowing down," he said.

"The difference in overall gross earnings and individual average earnings is indicative of SA's strong labour movement.

"While less people have jobs, those with jobs are earning more money. The danger with this is that people who are prepared to work for less are kept out of the system," he said.

The manufacturing sector lost 51000 jobs, or 4,1percent. Construction saw the sharpest decline with 50000 less jobs (10,9percent) while electricity, gas and water supply industry shed 6,7percent of its workforce.

The combined industries of wholesale retail trade, motor vehicle repair, personal and household goods, hotels and restaurants lost 56000 workers in the year.

Financial services, real estate and business services reported a combined decrease of 110000 workers over the year.

Miriam Altman, executive director at the Human Sciences Research Council, said the heart of SA's employment problem, which extended well beyond the recession, was the youth unemployment.

She said 75percent of job losses were experienced by people under 34.

Ann Bernstein, director of the Centre for Development and Enterprise, said SA's economic policy priority should be to encourage the creation of jobs rather than just growth.

"South Africa has some of the worst employment figures in the world. Nearly five and a half million people - one in every six adults - are out of work in South Africa." - Additional reporting by I-Net Bridge and Sapa