South Africa’s Jobless Rate Unexpectedly Declines to 25%

South Africa’s unemployment rate unexpectedly declined to 25 percent in the third quarter as manufacturing and retail sales rose, signaling economic growth may recover from a slowdown in the second quarter.

The jobless rate fell from 25.7 percent in the second quarter, Statistics South Africa said in a report released in Pretoria, the capital, today. The median estimate of five analysts in a Bloomberg survey was for an increase to 26 percent. Unemployment in South Africa is the highest of 61 nations tracked by Bloomberg.

South Africa’s economic growth may rebound in the third quarter from the slowest pace in almost two years after the purchasing manager’s index stayed above the 50 mark for a second month in October, showing an expansion in manufacturing, while retail sales surged more than expected in August. Africa’s biggest economy expanded an annualized 1.3 percent in the second quarter as mining and manufacturing output plunged. The central bank has kept its benchmark rate at a 30-year low of 5.5 percent this year to help boost the economy.

“This quarter is giving us a bit of hope,” Kefiloe Masiteng, a deputy director-general at Statistics South Africa, said in Pretoria.

The number of people in work rose by 193,000 to 13.3 million, the agency said. The retail industry added 68,000 jobs compared with the second quarter and the banking and insurance industry employed 64,000 more people, it said. State companies cut 20,000 jobs.

Cut Forecasts

Economic growth is lagging the 7 percent the government said is needed to meet its target of cutting the jobless rate to 14 percent by 2020. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan last week cut his forecast for expansion this year to 3.1 percent and 3.4 percent in 2012 as a debt crisis in Europe, which buys about a third of South Africa’s manufactured exports, undermines growth in that region.

The youth wing of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress led thousands of young people on a 60 kilometer (37 miles) march between Johannesburg and Pretoria on Oct. 27 to demand jobs and a faster redistribution of wealth from whites to blacks.

South Africa’s rand weakened 2.3 percent to 8.0615 against the dollar by 12:10 p.m. in Johannesburg

To contact the reporter on this story: Andres R. Martinez in Johannesburg at amartinez28@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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