by Chanel De Bruyn

The employment seesaw

An employment outlook survey shows very little improvement

SA employers were expecting a stagnant labour market between April and June, according to a Manpower Employment Outlook Survey
Employment outlook survey

South African employers were expecting a stagnant labour market between April and June, according to a Manpower Employment Outlook Survey.

Formulated from the responses of a sample of 750 employers in South Africa, the survey indicated that 7% of employers planned to increase staffing levels, while 5% planned to reduce staffing levels and 87% anticipated no change in their staffing levels during the second quarter of 2013. 

Despite the cautious nature of the overall forecast, job seekers can expect to find some opportunities in the wholesale and retail trade sector, the electricity, gas and water supply sector, and the transport, storage and communications sectors.

In contrast, employers in the restaurant and hotel sector, the manufacturing sector and the construction sector reported weak second-quarter forecasts.

Manpower Group South Africa managing director Lyndy van den Barselaar said labour issues, which had spread from the mining industry to other sectors such as farming, had a negative effect on employment plans for many industries.

“Changes in minimum wages, combined with the threat of more strikes in different sectors, anticipated changes in black economic empowerment (BEE), as well as land reform policies, have made many employers err on the side of caution when planning future staffing levels," she added.

The report asserted that, while the manufacturing and construction sectors continued to be dogged by lower consumer demand, declining exports and cautious business spending, their outlook improved by seven percentage points over the previous quarter.

In addition, consumers remained careful, spending less on luxuries and dining, which impacted on the restaurants sector, reported the survey; while businesses and consumers cut back on travelling and holidays, affecting the hotel industry.

“Basic services and necessities such as electricity and water supply continued to show growth in employment, though this may be stunted by government's recent refusal to allow Eskom to raise rates again. The wholesale and retail trade sector continues to do well off the back of improved consumer spending," explained Van den Barselaar.

Quarter-on-quarter, forecasts weakened in six of the 10 sectors, with the most notable drops in manufacturing, agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing and restaurants and hotels.

“Although we would have hoped for more positive results following the holiday season, consumer shopping performance, as well as some positive commitments from government on business issues, businesses still seem downbeat as to future employment plans.

“With factors such as the global economy, upcoming policy changes in BEE and land reform expected from government, businesses still seem to be playing a waiting game before committing to any large-scale growth and employment plans," Van den Barselaar concluded.

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