Employment update: Non-farm employment improves on a quarterly basis, adding 81 000 jobs in Q4.17

26 Mar 2018

Annabel Bishop

Chief Economist

Figure 1: Employment in the non-agriculture formal sector
  • According to the Quarterly Employment Statistics (QES) survey, formal non-farm employment increased by 81 000 jobs in Q4.17 to 9.80m from 9.72m (revised number) in Q3.17.
  • The largest quarterly job gains were registered in the trade (+56 000), financial (+ 29 000) and government (+21 000) sectors (see figure 2).
  • On an annual basis, employment levels rose by a net 18 000 positions in Q4.17 compared to Q4.16, with employment gains experienced in four of the eight major sectors. The largest job gains of 23 000, were noted in the trade category (see figure 3).
  • Stats SA ascribes the job gains in this sector (which includes wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles, motor cycles and personal and household goods; hotels and restaurants industry) mainly to “increases in employment in retail trade; hotels and restaurants and wholesale trade.”
  • The total level of employment was on a downward trajectory for most of 2017 (see figure 1) which is consistent with persistently weak economic activity, coupled with depressed business confidence levels, amidst a climate of perceived policy and political uncertainty (see figure 5).
  • However as we can see by the latest figures, this situation has started to turn and should improve further as business confidence has jumped to levels last seen in Q1.15. This indicates that the private business sector should look to boost investment and add jobs going forward. Indeed, recent survey evidence obtained from the retail sector survey for Q1.18, signals growth in the number of individuals employed (seefigure 6).
Figure 2: Quarterly change in number of employees, Q4.17
Figure 3: Annual change in number of employees, Q4.17
  • The Quarterly Employment Survey also provides detail on wage developments across the sectors.
  • The growth in the compensation of employees lifted 7.2% q/q in Q4.17 (see figure 4) , primarily on the back of increases in the transport, construction and manufacturing sectors of 17.0% q/q; 14.0% q/q and 12.9% q/q respectively.
  • However Stats SA reported that average real monthly earnings for non-farm employees rose by a modest 2.1% y/y to R19 189 in the three months to November 2017, versus a rise of 4.4% y/y for the three months to August 2017. Notably the government sector saw a decline in growth of real monthly earnings, to 3.6% y/y for the three months to November 2017 from 9.1 y/y for the previous three months to August 2017.
  • The highest average monthly earnings of R39 998 was paid in the electricity sector.
Figure 4: Change in gross earnings – formal non - agricultural sector
Figure 5: Business confidence index and general political climate rating
Figure 6: Retail Confidence Survey: growth in the number of people employed