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Staff Reporter

 

The Free State’s official unemployment rate has jumped to 38.4 percent for the first quarter, according to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA).

In its latest report of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) released Tuesday, Stats SA said the province lost about 29 000 jobs between January and March this year after several sectors shed jobs.

The Free State, which previously had an unemployment rate of 35 percent, is one of the three provinces in the country with the highest increases.

“The official unemployment rate increased in seven of the nine provinces, with the largest increase recorded in the North West (up by 4.4 percentage points), followed by Free State (up by 3.4 percentage points) and KwaZulu-Natal (up by 1.9 percentage points),” said Statistician General Risenga Maluleke in the latest report.

The QLFS is a household-based sample survey conducted by Stats SA.

It collects data on the labour market activities of individuals aged 15 to 64 years old who live in South Africa.

The job cuts left the province with 756 000 people employed, after it had 785 000 at the end of 2019.

The Free State now has the second highest official unemployment rate after the Eastern Cape with 40.5 percent.

Using the expanded definition of unemployment, which includes those who have given up looking for work, the Free State has a rate of 44.5 percent.

This is only second to the Eastern Cape with 48.9 percent.

Jobs were mostly shed in seven of the country’s 10 major sectors, particularly in finance, community and social services as well as agriculture.

Maluleke said the report was delayed due to challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic as they had to ensure the safety of those collecting data.

“It should be noted that the QLFS for Quarter 1 (January to March) of 2020 data collection was disrupted when Stats SA suspended face-to-face data collection for all its surveys on 19 March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and restricted movement,” he explained.

“This was to ensure that the field staff and respondents were not exposed to the risk of contracting coronavirus and to contain its spread.

“As a result, some 621 dwellings or 2.0 percent of the 30 608 sampled dwelling units, were not interviewed.”

Nationally, the official unemployment rate rose to 30.1 percent from 29.1.

The expanded unemployment rate also increased to 39.7 percent.

According to Stats SA, the country had about 16.4 million employed people at the end of March.

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