S.Africa jobless rate rises to 25.0 percent in Q1

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The number of unemployed people in South Africa increased in the first quarter of this year, mainly due to seasonal changes, official data showed on Tuesday.

Statistics South Africa said the official jobless rate went up to 25.0 percent of the labour force in the first quarter of 2011 from 24.0 percent in the fourth quarter.

This pushed the number of unemployed people to 4.364 million in the three months to March from 4.137 million in the fourth quarter.

“Employment traditionally declines in the first quarter,” Stats S.A said in a statement.

“However, the decline … in this quarter is substantially very low compared to the decline observed in the first quarter of 2009 and 2010.”

The statistics agency also said that if those who have given up looking for work were included in the figures, the number of unemployed went up to 36.5 percent from 35.8 in the fourth quarter.

South Africa’s government wants to create 5 million jobs by 2020, although concedes that that is not going to happen unless economic growth rates double to around 7 percent.

Chronic unemployment has left many black people still leaving in poverty 17 years after the end of apartheid, fuelling protests in demand of basic services such as electricity, water and sanitation.

South Africans vote in local elections on May 18. Some voters have vowed to stay away from the polls in protest at poor living conditions.

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