As we find ourselves halfway through 2024, it’s a good time to ask: how is our economy doing? Let’s take a look at the latest report released by Stats SA to get a clearer picture.

The South African economy showed signs of weakening in the first quarter of this year. The economy contracted by 0.1%, pulled down by manufacturing, mining, and construction. The automotive sector’s struggles were the primary reason behind manufacturing’s poor performance. Mining faced declines in the platinum group metals, coal, gold, and manganese ore. Additionally, transport, storage and communication, electricity, gas and water, and general government services all struggled on the supply side of the economy.

However, not all news was bad. Agricultural activity surged thanks to stronger horticultural production. There were also modest gains in trade catering and accommodation, personal services, and finance, real estate, and business services.

On the demand side, the economy wasn’t any brighter. Imports, exports, gross fixed capital formation, household consumption, and government consumption all decreased in the first quarter.

The employment scene also painted a grim picture. According to the latest Quarterly Employment Statistics (QES) release, the formal non-agricultural sector saw a net loss of 67,000 jobs in the first quarter. The trade and community services industries bore the brunt of these losses, with smaller declines in business services and mining. On a more positive note, employment did increase in manufacturing, transport, and construction.

The formal non-agricultural sector reported a 5.5% decrease in total turnover in the first quarter. Mining saw the largest percentage decrease, while community, social, and personal services (excluding government and educational institutions) managed to increase turnover by 3.3%.


Despite the challenging start to the year, the second quarter is showing some signs of improvement. The latest business cycle indicators for April, the first month of the second quarter, reveal gains in several sectors, including mining, manufacturing, electricity generation, wholesale trade, retail trade, motor trade, tourist accommodation, and passenger transport.

Yet, it’s not all positive. The food and beverages sector (restaurants, catering, and fast food) saw income decrease by 4.6% year-on-year and 4.0% month-on-month in April. The volume of goods transported on South African roads continued its downward trend, recording negative growth rates both year-on-year and month-on-month.

In terms of government spending, Stats SA reports that national government spending broke the R2 trillion mark for the 2022/23 financial year. Financial transfers to other levels of government, institutions, and foreign governments accounted for just over half of this amount, followed by interest paid on debt and social benefits. National government generated or received R1.7 trillion in revenue, with taxes making up 97% of this total.

So, as we reflect on the first half of 2024, it’s clear that while there are challenges, there are also areas of resilience and growth. How we navigate these next few months will be crucial in shaping the trajectory of our economy for the remainder of the year.

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