South Africa’s economy lost 2.2 million jobs in the second quarter of 2020, the highest number since 2008, the country’s statistics body announced Tuesday. 

Statistics South Africa said employment decreased in all sectors of the economy during the period. 

The number of employed persons in the formal sector decreased by 1.2 million (10.8%), the informal sector shed 640,000 jobs (21.9%), private households shed 311,000 jobs (23.6%) and employment in the agriculture sector declined by 66,000 (7.6%). 

The statistics body further said that South Africa’s unemployment rate fell to 23.3% in the second quarter from 30.1% in the first quarter due to fewer people looking for work amid the nation’s strict coronavirus lockdown. It marks the lowest rate since the third quarter of 2009. 

“This sharp fall in the unemployment rate in quarter two is not a reflection of an improvement in the labor market but rather an effect of the national lockdown, since the official definition of unemployment requires that people look for work and are available for work,” said Statistics South Africa. 

South Africa had one of the most strict lockdown restrictions barring non-essential workers from leaving their homes in a bid to curtail the spread of COVID-19. But restrictions were gradually lifted from June and now almost all sectors are back to normal. 

The country has the highest number of COVID-19 cases on the continent and is the tenth most affected country globally with 672,572 confirmed cases and 16,667 deaths. 

According to Statistics South Africa, there are now only 14.1 million employed people in the country, the lowest since 2011.

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