The survey showed that the number of discouraged work-seekers increased by 201,000 and the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement decreased by 38,000 between the two quarters, resulting in a net increase of 164,000 in the not economically active population.
Stats SA said these minor changes resulted in the official unemployment rate increasing from 32.5% in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021.
“This is the highest since the start of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey in 2008.”
The unemployment rate, according to the expanded definition of unemployment, increased by 0.6 of a percentage point to 43.2% in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the fourth quarter of 2020, Stats SA said.
The largest employment decreases were observed in private households (70,000), followed by the informal sector (19,000), and the agricultural sector (18,000) this quarter.
Stats SA said employment increases were only observed in the formal sector (79,000).
Compared to a year ago, total employment decreased by 1.4 million.
Between the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, the number of employed people decreased in five of the 10 industries, with the largest decrease recorded in construction (87,000), followed by trade (84,000) and private households (70,000).
The largest increases in employment were recorded in finance (215,000), utilities and community and social services (16,000 each).
Compared to the same period last year, a net decrease of 1.4 million in total employment in the first quarter of 2021 was largely due to losses in the number of people employed in the trade (341,000), construction (265,000), manufacturing (208,000), community and social services (192,000), and private households (189,000) industries.