Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

THE beleaguered mining sector shed 15,000 jobs in the third quarter, reflecting the extent to which the slowdown in global demand for commodities, coupled with disruptive wildcat strikes, had on the sector, a Statistics South Africa jobs survey released on Tuesday showed.

The job losses in mining do not bode well for South Africa’s already high unemployment rate of 25.5%.

But the September Quarterly Employment Statistics (QES) survey showed that the overall formal non-agricultural sector added 10,000 jobs in the third quarter. This brought the number of jobs in the sector to 8.44-million.

Although most of the violent mining sector strikes happened in August, their effects are still being felt. This is evident in various economic data, the latest being the 7.7% decline in mining production in October compared with that month last year.

In September, mining output fell 7.2% against the corresponding period last year.

Sectors with close links to mining also took a strain. Manufacturing; electricity, gas and water supply; and the construction industries did not add or reduce jobs in the third quarter compared with the second.

Further, the transport, storage and communication industry saw no changes in employment in September compared with June. Although there was no change in employment between the two quarters, prospects for hiring in the sector seemed bright, according to a Manpower Group employment survey released earlier in the week.

It showed that employers in the transport, storage and communication sector were particularly optimistic about hiring in the first quarter of next year. The buoyant mood was largely because of government plans to spend billions of rand on the expansion and development of infrastructure.

An outstanding performer in terms of jobs was the community, social and personal services industry, which recorded a quarterly rise of 20,000 employees. This was mainly as a result of rises in employment in all the three tiers of government, and at universities and technikons.

Investec Group economist Annabel Bishop said the government continued to increase expenditure in a slow growth environment and this was benefiting the economy.

The wholesale and retail trade sector reported a quarterly rise of 2,000 employees in September compared with June. Retail trade accounted for most of these jobs.

Investment Solutions chief strategist Chris Hart said there had been factors that favoured the retail sector. "There has been strong growth in unsecured lending, some companies have paid bonuses, and salary increases have been granted. All these factors suggest that retailers will do well."

But employment creation prospects in the retail sector are expected to come under pressure over the next few months.

Rand Merchant Bank retail analyst Jason Muscat said the financial services group expected a moderation in retail sector growth next year, given that consumption was forecast to slowdown. "Jobs in the sector have been good this year, but given that we expect it to slow down next year, we do see a moderation in employment growth within the sector."

Statistics SA’s QES survey shows that gross earnings paid to employees during the quarter amounted to R369.9bn, reflecting a quarterly rise of R17.4bn compared with the quarter ended June. Salary increases were the most likely reason for the strong jump in gross earnings paid to employees during the September quarter.