South African Unemployment Rises, in Challenge for Ramaphosa

PRETORIA – South Africa’s unemployment rate inched up to 27.6% in the first quarter, official data showed on Tuesday, underscoring the scale of the economic challenge faced by President Cyril Ramaphosa after his ANC party won re-election.

Job seekers are seen outside a construction site in Sandton, an affluent area situated within the metro of Johannesburg, South Africa September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Ramaphosa is trying to revive the South African economy after a decade of slow growth and rising joblessness.

The former union leader turned business tycoon put job creation at the centre of his African National Congress (ANC) party’s campaign for last week’s election, which returned the ANC to power but with a reduced majority in parliament.

Unemployment was 27.1% in the fourth quarter of 2018.

South Africa’s statistics agency said decreases in employment were observed in most sectors of the economy in the first three months of 2019.

The construction industry saw the largest decrease, followed by finance. There were 6.2 million people without jobs in the three months to the end of March, compared with 6.1 million people in the prior quarter.

The expanded definition of unemployment, which includes people who have stopped looking for work, rose to 38% in the first quarter from 37.0% in the previous quarter.

The ANC’s 57.5% share of the vote was its worst parliamentary election result since it swept to power at the end of apartheid in 1994.

Unemployment was a major worry for South African voters in the weeks leading up to the elections, opinion polls showed.

(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Alexander Winning and Catherine Evans)