South African Jobless Rate Falls to 24.9% in Second Quarter

South Africa’s unemployment rate, the highest of more than 60 nations tracked by Bloomberg, fell to 24.9 percent in the second quarter, as the government, mines and construction companies hired more workers.

The jobless rate fell from 25.2 percent in the previous three months, Statistics South Africa said in a report released today in Pretoria, the capital. The number of people without jobs declined by 56,000 to 4.47 million, while the number of employed rose by 25,000 to 13.45 million.

“We are not out of the woods yet, but there is hope,” Kefiloe Masiteng, the statistics agency’s deputy director-general of social statistics, told reporters. “More work was created in the formal sector, which is sustainable.”

The government has pledged to create 5 million jobs and slash the unemployment rate to 14 percent by 2020. The National Treasury expects Africa’s biggest economy to expand 2.7 percent this year, less than half the 7 percent expansion that’s needed to achieve that goal. South Africa’s unemployment rate compares with 24.8 percent in Spain and 22.6 percent in Greece.

“Any improvement in the employment statistics is encouraging,” Adenaan Hardien, an economist at Cadiz Holdings Ltd., said by telephone from Cape Town. “The improvement over the quarter is still rather small. Much more needs to be done on that score. Growth needs to be much higher.”

Manufacturing Jobs

The number of people employed in community and social services, which includes state workers, rose by 121,000, while mining added 21,000 jobs and construction 26,000, the statistics agency said. Manufacturing shed 44,000 jobs, agriculture 18,000, the trade industry 91,000 and the finance industry 4,000, it said.

The central bank on July 19 lowered its benchmark lending rate for the first time since 2010, reducing it by half a percentage point to 5 percent to bolster growth, as Europe’s debt crisis undermines demand for the nation’s exports.

“The manufacturing sector remains susceptible to renewed weakness in the global economy, particularly in the euro area, through possible declines in exports,” the Pretoria-based central bank said on July 23 in its annual economic report.

The rand rose 0.2 percent to 8.1834 against the dollar as of 12:17 p.m. in Johannesburg, curbing its decline this year to 4.5 percent.