This week Stats SA released the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for 2021Q2, as well as the results of the benchmarked and rebased GDP estimates. This exercise is done every five years and will result in revisions to the historic data series, which will in turn impact metrics such as the debt to GDP ratio.QLFS_Q2_2021 

Highlights from the Quarterly Labour Force SurveyQuarter 2, 2021

  • In the second quarter of 2021 the official unemployment rate, which stood at 32.6% in Q1 2021, increased by 1.8% to 34.4% in Q2 2021, which is the highest unemployment rate recorded since the start of the QLFS in 2008.
  • The unemployment rate based on the expanded definition, which includes those out of work who were no longer actively looking for work, increased by 1.2% to 44.4% in Q2 2021.
  • Employment decreased in three of ten industries: Finance, down by 278 000 (-11.0% q/q), Community and services, down by 166 000 (-4.6% q/q) and Manufacturing, down by 83 000 (-5.5% q/q).
  • The biggest increases were recorded in Construction, up 143 000 (13.3% q/q), followed by Trade, up 108 000 (3.6% q/q).
  • In the informal sector employment increased by 184 000 (7.4% q/q) people following a 19 000 decline in Q1 2021.
  • Of the 14.9 million persons who were employed in Q2 2021, almost four out of every five people (82.7%) were expected to work during the national lockdown by the companies/organisations where they work.

Highlights from the rebased GDP release

Rebasing and benchmarking of GDP estimates is done every five years. Rebasing involves changing the reference year for the real estimates of national accounts; it is for this reason that the reference year for South Africa has been changed from 2010 to 2015. Overhauling the way in which the economy is measured provides a far more relevant and reliable measure of GDP. With the adoption of new methods, new data sources, and a new base year, Stats SA has revised the entire set of GDP-related time series.

The latest gross domestic product (GDP) rebasing and benchmarking exercise has resulted in an upward revision in the size of the economy. The revised GDP at current prices shows that the economy is 11,0% larger in 2020 than previously estimated. South Africa’s previous and revised GDP growth rates are similar in magnitude and in pattern, with the largest difference occurring in 2018 (Figure 3). Both the revised and previous series show the severe impact of COVID-19 in 2020 (‑6,4% revised and ‑7,0% previous).

A complete sources and methods document, as well as the media presentation, is available here.