South Africa’s official unemployment rate drops as lockdown discourages job seekers

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PRETORIA, Sept 29 (Reuters)South Africa’s official unemployment rate fell in the second quarter as a coronavirus lockdown saw fewer people actively looking for employment, but the expanded jobless figure which includes people who have stopped looked for work soared, the statistics agency said on Tuesday.

In its quarterly labour force survey, which was conducted by phone for the first time because of the pandemic, Statistics South Africa said the unemployment rate dropped to 23.3% in the three months to end June, from a record high of 30.1% in the first quarter.

Under the expanded definition of unemployment, the rate rose to 42% compared with 39.7% in the previous quarter.

“It is because for someone to be unemployed they have to be actively looking for employment … During ‘Stage 5’ and ‘Stage 4’ (of the lockdown) many did not continue looking for employment so they can not be classified as unemployed,” Statistician General Risenga Maluleke said of the lower official unemployment rate.

He added: “What has happened is that the share of employed has declined from 16.4 million people to 14.1 million people.”

South Africa imposed a strict coronavirus lockdown at the end of March, squeezing businesses and consumers, and saw economic output record its largest contraction ever in the second quarter.

The statistics agency said the number of people that were not economically active increased by 5.3 million people to 20.5 million between March and June, the strictest period of the lockdown.

(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; writing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; editing by Larry King)

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