Unemployment in Africa’s largest economy dipped slightly in the last quarter of 2013, official data showed Tuesday, a boost for the government as South Africa heads toward May elections.
Statistics South Africa said the unemployment rate fell to a two-year low of 24.1 percent, down from 24.5 percent in the third quarter.
While modest, the ruling African National Congress is likely to herald the dip as a sign the economy is on the right track.
Joblessness is a major issue in the country at it heads to the polls on May 7, with both major parties making promises to create jobs a key plank of their manifestos.
But critics argue the official data, which measures only those actively looking for work, do not tell the whole story.
Out of a working age population of 35 million only 15.2 million South Africans are actually employed.
“Today’s figures suggest that the weak economy is still struggling to reduce the unemployment rate significantly,” said analysts at Nedbank Capital
A large portion of the decline in the unemployment rate appears to be thanks to an uptick in government jobs.
“Much of the gain in employment was in the ‘community and social services’ sector,” said Shilan Shah of Capital Economics.
“These types of jobs tend to be relatively low paid and deliver low rates of productivity growth.”
“Employment in the manufacturing and financial services sectors, which deliver higher rates of productivity growth, actually fell over the quarter,” she said.