South Africa’s economy lost 2.2 million jobs in the second quarter of 2020, according to the government’s statistics agency, which is the largest fall on record.
But because of a statistical quirk the country’s official unemployment rate has fallen to 23% – a substantial decrease from 30.1% seen in the first quarter.
Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) defines an unemployed person as someone who is actively looking for a job – and because of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown, most people who lost their jobs during that time were unable to look for a new one.
A clearer picture of the unemployment rate comes from Stats SA’s figure for the number of people who were not economically active between March and June – the strictest period of the lockdown.
That figure increased by 5.3 million people to 20.5 million.
South Africa’s lockdown – one of the strictest in the world – led to the largest economic contraction ever in the second quarter.