South Africa’s unemployment rate fell to 34.5% in the first quarter of 2022 from 35.3% in the final quarter of last year, statistics agency data showed on Tuesday.

Statistics South Africa said the number of unemployed totalled 7.862 million people in the three months to end-March, compared with 7.921 million people in the previous three months.

According to an expanded definition of unemployment that includes those discouraged from seeking work, 45.5% of the labour force was without work in the first quarter, from 46.2% in the prior quarter.

South Africa’s economy rebounded quicker than expected from the COVID-19 pandemic last year, but growth in 2022 is expected to slow to a meagre 1.7% according to the central bank’s latest forecast.

Analysts say Africa’s most industrialised nation needs higher rates of growth to make a meaningful dent in poverty and unemployment.

In the first quarter, job gains were recorded mainly in the community and social services sector, followed by manufacturing. The trade sector also had job gains.

Despite the dip in the headline unemployment rate, it remained near record highs as other key sectors like finance, construction and agriculture recorded job losses in the quarter.

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