People work at ''The Faktory
People work at ''The Faktory", a fashion design and clothing manufacturing company in Johannesburg, South Africa, March 4, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African private sector activity expanded at its strongest rate in nine years in April, as buoyant customer demand pushed new orders higher and business confidence and employment rose, a survey showed on Wednesday.

“April PMI (Purchasing Managers’ Index) data signified a sharp acceleration in the economic recovery from COVID-19 across South Africa. New business volumes grew at the strongest rate for over nine years, driven by rising business confidence, increased movement and improving export demand,” said IHS Markit economist David Owen.

“In response, firms expanded their output capacity and began to raise staffing levels.”

IHS Markit’s PMI rose to 53.7 in April from 50.3 in March, staying above the 50 level that indicates an expansion.

This April headline PMI reading was the highest since March 2012.

IHS Markit said firms indicated that demand had improved strongly at the start of the second quarter, as markets recovered from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic disrupted economic activity last year, but the easing of lockdown restrictions meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus has seen activity recover somewhat this year.

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