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South Africa bleeds jobs as riots take toll on commercial hubs

Trade sector saw the biggest decline in jobs in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
A view shows damage inside a shopping mall following protests. Image: Courtesy Kierran Allen/via Reuters

South Africa’s two largest provinces by contribution to gross domestic product accounted for half of jobs lost in the third quarter as deadly riots in July saw thousands of businesses ransacked and shuttered.

The number of people employed in the commercial hub of Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg, and KwaZulu-Natal provinces fell by 323,502 to 6.7 million, pushing the nation’s jobless rate to a new record, Statistics South Africa said in a report on Tuesday.

The official unemployment rate rose to 34.9%, the highest on a global list of 82 countries monitored by Bloomberg.

The biggest decline in jobs in those provinces were in the trade sector, the industry most affected by the unrest that according to the South African Property Owners Association cost the country about R50 billion.

The impact of the riots – following the jailing of ex-President Jacob Zuma – was also seen in an increase in the number of not economically active people that includes those discouraged from looking for a job. That number climbed by 988,000 to 17.8 million.

“When we looked at the reasons that people have provided in terms of why they did not look, the riots came up as one of the reasons,” Malerato Mosiane, the agency’s chief director for labor statistics, said in an interview.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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