It marks the lowest level since the country’s quarterly labour force survey was introduced 11 years ago and is just the latest blow to Africa’s most developed economy, which has suffered through mass layoffs, rolling blackouts and contracting gross domestic product (GDP).
The country’s opposition parties quickly lashed out at Ramaphosa and the ANC, saying the country had an “unemployment catastrophe” and warning that the situation was getting worse.
The country’s statistics agency StatsSA said in its quarterly report that “the unemployment rate increased by 1.4 percentage points from 27.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2019 to 29 per cent in the second quarter”.
“This is the highest level recorded since …2008,” StatsSA added.
The figure rises to 38.5 per cent under the expanded definition of unemployment which includes those who have given up looking for work.
The youth unemployment rate was more than 50 per cent — nearly double the national average.
The ruling ANC party won general elections in May with its smallest majority since it led the fight against apartheid rule that was replaced by multi-racial democracy in 1994.
Ramaphosa, who came to power last year, campaigned promising to revive the economy after the scandal-tainted presidency of Jacob Zuma.
Shortly after the election victory, the ANC vowed to halve unemployment to 14 per cent in the next five years.
Last month Ramaphosa said the youth unemployment rate was “a national crisis that demands urgent, innovative and coordinated solutions”.
Some 49,000 jobs were lost during the second quarter of this year, with the mining, transport, construction trade and banking sectors shedding the most jobs.
South Africa’s banks, mining and construction sectors have in recent months signalled mass layoffs as GDP contracted by 3.2 per cent in the first three months of 2019, the largest quarterly drop in about 10 years.
– ‘Incredibly worrying’ –
Analysts say the latest figures did not come as a surprise, primarily due to the slowing economy.