Pretoria - South Africa's official jobless rate eased to 23.9% of the labour fource in the fourth quarter of 2011, from 25.0% in the third quarter, a survey showed on Tuesday.
In its latest quartely Labour Force Survey, Statistics South Africa said the total number of unemployed people stood at 4.244 million in the three months to December from 4.442 million in the third quarter.
The expanded definition of unemployment, which includes people who have stopped looking for work, decreased by 0.6 percentage points to 35.4%.
Chris Hart, chief economist, Investment Solutions, said the economy was starting to claw some of the jobs lost in the wake of the global financial crisis.
"However, job creation is not happening in abundance or at the rate that could ever hope to materially dent unemployment. We are tinkering in decimal points whereas the substance of unemployment is not really being resolved at all. This economy is not geared to creating jobs because the environment is too hostile for small business," he said.
"Programmes (announced by President Zuma last year) are really mere gestures. They could never ever be a solution to our jobs crisis."
The government sees unemployment as one of the major challenges for South Africa's economy after a million jobs were lost during a recession in 2009 and have not been recovered.
Out of nearly 50 million people in South Africa, only about 13.1 million are employed, with only 40% of people of working age in a job.
The government is proposing changes to labour laws that are intended to increase job security for temporary workers but economists expect the shake-up will worsen unemployment as it partly ramps up costs for employers.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has said the economy needs to grow by 7% a year on a sustained basis to make a dent on unemployment, more than double the current rate of 3.1% seen for 2011.
Reuters, as published on fin24.co.za
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