SA Job Market Rapidly Improving During COVID-19

South Africa’s online job market re-grows during COVID-19

 Cape Town, 20 July 2020 – According to recent reports from a household survey conducted by the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) released on 15 July, almost half of all South African households reported going hungry since the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent national state of emergency.

In a bid to try and prepare for the peak of the Coronavirus, South Africa’s government enforced a lockdown on 27 March. From what is clear from data published by Adzuna, an online job aggregator, it took South Africa’s job market less than three weeks to hit rock bottom.

By the start of April, online vacancies recorded by Adzuna had dropped by more than 35% as the economy was all but shut down. And this statistic is in line with those from an offline jobs published by the AIDC reporting on the income loss of informal worker households.

SA’s ‘hard’ lockdown drained much of the workforce

Seeing that only essential service workers were permitted to perform their duties during level 5 of the national lockdown, it is estimated that just one in every three income earners were able to earn salaries between March and May.

COVID-19 has unsettled almost every job market across the world, and even during lower alert levels of South Africa’s lockdown, it still poses a massive threat to critical industries like travel & tourism.

A timeline of South Africa’s online job market, with inserted highlights from the COVID-19 journey

At the start of April, the hospitality sector was the hardest hit by the pandemic and lost nearly 60% of all its online advertised jobs due to lockdown regulations. It was interesting to note that some sectors, such as a few in science and engineering, showed a very slight uptick in vacancies, presumably in a bid to try and curb the spread of the virus.

By May this year, there was a 38% decline in advertised positions online, and the sector that was feeling the pressure most was the domestic cleaning industry that saw a 85% reduction in online vacancies.

With schools indefinitely closed at the time, opportunities for teachers were also dwindling at an alarming rate. Warehousing and logistics employment opportunities declined by 33% in May compared to pre-lockdown data, and there were 70% less administrative positions being advertised online.

The country moved to level four lockdown in May, and the regulations allowed for a few new sectors to be operational. Public transport was allowed to resume to a certain degree, and there were some exceptions to the rules on interprovincial travel. But the easing out of level five into level four did not bring the much-needed relief that South Africa’s job market was hoping for.

Much-needed relief offers a glimmer of hope

As South Africa moved to level 3 of lockdown and the regulations were gradually eased, the workforce seemed to take a breath it had been in desperate need of for months. By the start of July, the South African job market began seeing some gradual improvements, but it was one of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19 and had lost nearly 40% of vacancies year to date.

Though regulations allow for more movement and economic activity, some industries are still in limbo, unable to operate, keeping the country stuck in a job loss chasm. The re-opening of restaurants for sit-down meals at the start of July provided the industry with a slight boost in jobs, but the road to recovery will not be a comfortable journey for South Africa.

Adzuna predicts that online vacancies might slowly keep increasing as the workforce adjusts to new regulations, and as these regulations are relaxed over time. For the time being, a surge in positions isn’t expected any time soon. However, some growth is better than the negative curve Adzuna has been observing over the past three months.

The COVID-19 case count has rapidly increased over the last four weeks. Now, right in the thick of it, South Africa’s job market has gained back most of the lost vacancy count. While there are still around 5% fewer jobs on offer in July than were on offer before the announcement of the national state of disaster, this is a great improvement.

COVID-19 destroyed and created jobs in South Africa

If nothing else, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a massive indication of just how adaptable the workforce is and how easy it is for businesses to rely on the virtual presence of their employees.

Adzuna documented an unprecedented increase in remote working positions in South Africa over the last few months. By mid-July, posts directly related to Coronavirus and COVID-19 also increased by more than 300% compared to April.

Jesse Green, country manager for Adzuna South Africa, adds: “The rise and fall of job opportunities is something we predicted when the national state of disaster was first announced, but what we didn’t foresee was that South Africans would be able to come up with unique employment opportunities to help fill the gaps in the job market and address the concerns raised by the pandemic at the same time.”


South Africa’s job market hit rock bottom when the country was under hard lockdown. While the economy stood still, we were losing more and more jobs with every day that passed. We’ve seen some of the highest unemployment levels ever recorded, and going into the peak of this pandemic might see the country lose thousands of more jobs (if not millions).

But there is hope, albeit that the increases in advertised opportunities are minute when compared to the losses Adzuna has observed. But this might also be the dawn of a new era for the South African workforce where the old model of the employee working 9-5 shifts, in an office-bound position, will be replaced by one that requires less physical contact and produces more efficient and effective outcomes.

As it turns out, relaxing the lockdown stage has brought more cases of the virus, but also revived the job market.