South Africa’s unemployment rose to its highest in 14 years in the first quarter of the year as agriculture and informal sectors shed jobs and more people stopped looking for work.
Data on Thursday showed a sign the economy may be headed for recession.
The unemployment rates climbed to 27.7 percent of the labour force in the first quarter, the highest since September 2003, from 26.5 percent in the last quarter of 2016.
Unemployment in the southern African country, rose to 36.4 percent, or 9.3 million people out of a total workforce of 22.4 million.
Employment and unemployment increased in the first quarter of 2017, but the economy’s ability to create jobs was outstripped by the number of people looking for work.
Agriculture and the informal sector (in businesses with less than five people or who earn too little to pay income tax) were the worst affected, according to Statistics South Africa. Agriculture lost 44,000 jobs driving up unemployment in rural provinces and placing, even more, pressure on cities.
South Africa’s failure to fix its economy has only exacerbated the racial inequalities left by apartheid. Black South Africans, the majority in the country, face the most unemployment (31.4%), followed by coloreds (22.9%), a group made of mixed-race South Africans and descendants of slaves and South Africa’s indigenous people. White people had the lowest rate of unemployment (6.6%). The figures are stubbornly consistent compared to previous years.
Statistics of South Africa warned that recent credit downgrades to sub-investment grade and the threat of further cuts were taking its toll on the economy as the currency depreciated and made imports more expensive.
The Southern African country lost its coveted investment grade status in April when S&P Global Ratings and Fitch downgraded the country following the sudden firing of the finance minister in a midnight cabinet purge by President Jacob Zuma.