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Covid-racked survey may have inflated jobless figures

Ideas

Covid-racked survey may have inflated jobless figures

It is likely there are a lot more people at work in SA than the labour force survey indicates

Columnist

The latest quarterly labour force survey from Stats SA is a shocker. It finds that unemployment rose to a record high of above 35% in the fourth quarter despite an increase in jobs, because so many more folk were looking for work. It shows, too, that employment declined by more than 3% in 2021 even though the economy recovered from the worst of Covid to grow by almost 5%. Total job losses since the start of the pandemic stand at almost 2-million.

The picture of a jobless recovery may be plausible. Employers might have realised during the lockdown that they could produce the same with fewer workers, so retrenched as the economy opened up. Some companies just couldn’t hold on any longer as the lockdowns continued.

But even if it’s plausible, is it true? The response rate was so low — just 44% — that it’s hard to read anything off the figures reliably. What makes it even more concerning is that in the urban, economic heartland even fewer people responded to the survey — just 23% in Gauteng and 39% in the Western Cape...

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