Quarterly Bulletin

The Real Economy Bulletin is a TIPS review of quarterly trends, developments and data in the real economy, together with analysis of the main manufacturing industries and key data in Excel format.

This bulletin provides information about quarterly trends in the real economy – that is, agriculture, mining, manufacturing, construction and productive services – with an initial focus on manufacturing. We will fill the gaps left by most quarterly bulletins on the economy by analysing growth, investment and employment at the industry level.

Every quarter, the bulletin will highlight major new projects, developments in leading manufacturing companies and policy changes in the past quarter. It will consolidate the available data on manufacturing subsectors into an easy overview of key trends. Periodically, we will present deep dives into key issues facing the real economy.

The REB Provincial Review analyses developments in the real economy and in development policies and projects at the provincial level. 

Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Third Quarter 2023 In this edition GDP growth: In seasonally adjusted terms, Statistics South Africa reported that the GDP declined by 0.2% in the third quarter of 2023, meaning the economy shrank in year-on year-terms. The main driver of the quarterly contraction was a 10% fall in agricultural production. Manufacturing value added shrank 1.2% in the quarter, but was still larger than a year earlier. Eskom and Transnet output both dropped around a quarter off their peaks, increasingly dragging down industrialisation. Read more. Employment: In contrast to the GDP data, the employment figures suggest a spurt in jobs growth, especially…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Second Quarter 2023 In this edition GDP growth: The GDP grew 0.6% in the second quarter of 2023, a slight improvement over the previous quarter and maintaining the return to pre-pandemic levels after the extraordinary drop in the second quarter of 2020. Growth was driven by a 5% increase in investment by private business and state-owned companies, likely reflecting the rapid expansion in off-grid, largely renewable generation. Read more. Employment: Employment climbed rapidly from the second quarter of 2022 to the second quarter 2023, adding 780 000 positions. Almost all of the net job gains were in…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - First Quarter 2023 In this edition GDP growth: The economy grew by 0.4% in the first quarter of 2023, reversing the decline in the previous quarter. Still, the growth is slow, so the economy grew only 0.2% in the year to March 2023. Lower export prices and pro-cyclical fiscal and monetary stances were compounded by loadshedding. National electricity generation is now around 25% below 2007 levels. That said, Eskom increased generation by 7% in March and April, and auto sales were up by 29% for the quarter. Read more. Employment: Total employment remains lower than in…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Fourth Quarter 2022 In this edition GDP growth: The economy shrank by 1.3% in the fourth quarter of 2022. Arguably that very poor outcome actually showed surprising resilience, given extraordinarily heavy loadshedding combined with falling export prices. Manufacturing contracted by just under 1%, but agriculture and mining both fell by 3%. Since the pandemic, quarterly GDP growth has turned markedly volatile. Read more. Employment: Despite the decline in the GDP, total employment climbed by almost 160 000 in the fourth quarter of 2022, for a net gain of 900 000 compared to the same quarter in 2020. Still,…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Third Quarter 2022 In this edition GDP growth: GDP grew by 1.6% in the third quarter of 2022, an unexpectedly strong performance in light of intensified loadshedding and continuing volatility in the global economy. Agriculture grew most rapidly, at an exceptional 19%, while the rest of the economy expanded far more modestly. For the first time, the GDP has now exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Read More Employment: According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS), in the third quarter of 2022 the formal sector employed around 615 000 fewer people than in the third quarter of 2019. There has,…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Second Quarter 2022 In this edition GDP growth: The GDP shrank by 0.7% in the second quarter of 2022, mostly due to large-scale loadshedding, the floods in May in KwaZulu-Natal, and flat government spending. Value added fell in all of the real economy sectors, with agriculture the hardest hit. Manufacturing contracted by just under 6%. Construction remained depressed, apparently mostly due to stagnant investment by state-owned companies. Tourism continues to lag far behind pre-pandemic levels. Read More Employment: According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS), in the second quarter of 2022 the formal sector still employed 600 000…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - First Quarter 2022 In this edition GDP growth: The GDP expanded almost 2% in the first quarter of 2022, bringing the GDP back to pre-pandemic levels. GDP growth has become far more volatile since the pandemic, however. Moreover, significant differences persist between sectors, with agriculture showing the strongest recovery and construction by far the weakest. Read more. Employment: The available employment data suggest that the jobs recovery has lagged well behind the GDP, especially for lower-level formal employees and domestic workers. The number of employers and self-employed people has also dropped sharply. The employment data became…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Fourth Quarter 2021 In this edition GDP growth: The GDP expanded by 1.2% in the fourth quarter of 2021, bringing growth for 2021 as a whole to 4.9%, despite the 1.7% contraction in the third quarter and the COVID-19 surge in December. Read more. Employment: Statistics South Africa has delayed publication of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the fourth quarter of 2021 indefinitely because of a low response rate. The alternative source of information on formal employment, the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES), has since reported a 0.5% increase for the third quarter of 2021.…
Main Bulletin:  The Real Economy Bulletin - Third Quarter 2021    In this edition Trends in GDP growth: The GDP reportedly shrank by 1.5% in the third quarter of 2021. That was the first major setback in the recovery from the COVID-19 depression. Most observers blamed the July unrest. This view is borne out by monthly figures for manufacturing, mining and retail sales, which showed a sharp dip in July followed by a degree of recovery through October. It seems likely, however, that the remarkably rapid surge in COVID-19 from late November will lead to a renewed downturn in December. Read more. Employment: The Quarterly…
Main Bulletin:  The Real Economy Bulletin - Second Quarter 2021   The Real Economy Bulletin - Second Quarter 2021 In this edition Gross domestic product: The GDP grew by 1.2% in the second quarter of 2021, up from the (revised) figure of 1% in the first quarter. The economy recovered 19% over the past year from the sharp COVID-induced downturn in the second quarter of 2020. Still, as of the second quarter, it remained 1.4% lower than before the pandemic. The data for the GDP do not, however, reflect either the violent unrest in July or the impact of the severe third wave of the…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - First Quarter 2021 In this edition Gross domestic product: GDP grew by 2.7% in the first quarter of 2021. High mining prices continued to boost growth above initial expectations. Still, the economy was 2.9% smaller than in the first quarter of 2019, before the pandemic. Read more.Employment: Employment continues to recover more slowly than the GDP, with the worst hit among lower-level workers. As of the first quarter 2021, South Africa had recovered almost 800 000 jobs, but total employment was still 8% below the first quarter 2020, just before the pandemic hit South Africa. The figures show no…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Fourth Quarter 2020 In this edition Gross domestic product: As forecast since the middle of 2020, the South African GDP in 2020 was 7% lower than in 2019. After the very sharp downturn during the lockdown in the second quarter, most of the real economy has largely recovered on the back of higher metals prices and more targeted measures to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. Still, economic growth was affected by the continued risk of contagion, which suppressed recovery particularly for in-door hospitality and entertainment. The factors that slowed growth before the COVID-19 pandemic also remain a…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Third Quarter 2020 In this edition Gross domestic product:  In the third quarter of 2020, the GDP recovered 13.5% after the extraordinary downturn that led to an overall decline of 16% in the second quarter. As a result, although quarterly output was still at levels last seen in 2016, it was on track to do better than most forecasts. The biggest risk to the recovery in the short run remains a second wave of COVID-19 as a result of socialising and travel over the holiday season. Read more. Employment: The rebound in employment lagged behind the…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Second Quarter 2020 In this edition The GDP: As expected, the GDP dropped sharply, by 16% in seasonally adjusted terms, in the quarter ending in June 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic activity crashed in April, during the strict Level 5 of the lockdown. The gradual relaxation in restrictions since then have seen a bounce back to near pre-pandemic levels. Still, COVID-19 continues to pose a threat, limiting recovery especially in tourism and recreational services even in the absence of regulations. Moreover, long-standing structural challenges and declines in major trading partners will…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - First Quarter 2020 In this edition Trends in GDP growth: The first quarter of 2020 saw South Africa enter a third straight quarter of economic decline. But 2020 began a qualitative shift in the national and global economy. In the second half of 2019, the downturn was driven largely by the continued stagnation in commodity prices. From January to March 2020, however, the economy was increasingly weighed down by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the South African economy is expected to shrink by around 7% in the coming year, while the…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Fourth Quarter 2019 Data sheer: Data Second Quarter In this edition Trends in GDP growth: GDP growth in 2019, at 0.2%, was the lowest since the global financial crisis in 2008/9. The economy reportedly contracted in the last two quarters of the year as well as the first quarter. The slowdown reflects a combination of demand-side factors, resulting from slower global growth and a pro-cyclical (although far short of austerity) fiscal and monetary stance, combined with the supply-side drag of Eskom loadshedding and increasingly harsh and frequent droughts as the climate crisis intensifies. Read…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Third Quarter 2019   In this edition GDP growth: For the second time this year, the GDP contracted in the third quarter of 2019. In the past two years, the economy has reportedly shrunk in four quarters, underscoring the effects of the slowdown. Reported GDP growth has also become unusually erratic, with the economy growing reasonably strongly when it was not actually shrinking. Read more. Employment: Total employment remained virtually unchanged over the past year. Construction lost 160 000 jobs, however, which was offset by growth in other industries. Quarterly figures are hard to interpret because they…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Second Quarter 2019   In this edition GDP growth: Statistics South Africa reported rapid growth in the GDP in the second quarter, at 0.8% in actual terms – that is, 3% at an annualised rate. The data continue the increased volatility in the GDP data over the past five years. The data also again raise questions about the seasonal adjustment of the quarterly GDP data. Read more.  Employment: After a sharp fall in the first quarter, employment in the real economy was essentially stable in the year to the second quarter of 2019. It is now…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - First Quarter 2019   In this edition GDP growth: The GDP declined in the first quarter of 2019, while the economy lost jobs. The downturn continues the trend of volatile growth rates that began five years ago. Previous quarterly downturns in this period, however, were driven by agriculture; in contrast, the past quarter saw a broad-based decline. The briefing note on the economic slowdown explores factors behind these trends. Read more. Employment: Employment in the real economy fell by 160 000 jobs in the year to the first quarter of 2019. It is now at the same level…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Fourth Quarter 2018 In this edition GDP growth: South Africa’s GDP grew by an estimated 0.3% in the fourth quarter of 2018, after expanding 0.6% in the third quarter. For the year, the GDP grew 0.8%. Manufacturing and agriculture continue to grow, but construction and mining struggled. Read more. Employment: The economy as a whole generated 360 000 jobs in the year to the fourth quarter of 2018, mostly in the informal sector and domestic work. Employment in manufacturing, mining and agriculture remained essentially flat, while construction reportedly created 90 000 mostly informal jobs over the year. Read more. International…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Third Quarter 2018  In this edition GDP growth: South Africa’s third quarter GDP grew by an estimated 0.6% in the second quarter of 2018, reversing the contraction experienced in the first and second quarter of the year. Significant differences emerged between sectors, however, with growth in agriculture and manufacturing offset by declines in mining and construction. Read more. Employment: Total employment reportedly increased by 190 000 or 1.3% from the third quarter of 2017 to the third quarter of 2018, despite the erratic growth in the GDP. Still, manufacturing lost over 20 000 jobs in the year, continuing a…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Second Quarter 2018   In this edition GDP growth: South Africa’s GDP shrank by an estimated 0.17% in the second quarter of 2018. Excluding agriculture, however, the economy essentially stagnated over the quarter. Mining expanded by 1.2%, while manufacturing and the rest of the economy excluding agriculture remained essentially unchanged. The second quarter of reported decline in the GDP means that the economy officially entered a recession. More important, however, is that growth has been slow and uneven since 2014. Read more. Employment: Despite the slowdown in the GDP, employment in both the real economy and…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - First Quarter 2018 In this edition GDP growth: South Africa’s GDP shrank by an estimated 0.5% in the first quarter of 2018, although the estimated decline may be overstated for technical reasons. The contraction partially offset the gains in growth experienced in the last three quarters of 2017. Read more. Employment: Employment in the real economy declined by 1.1% between the first quarters of 2017 and 2018, although total employment climbed by 1.2%. Manufacturing employment expanded, but agriculture, construction, utilities saw losses in employment compared to a year earlier. Read more. International trade: In the first quarter of 2018, South…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Fourth Quarter 2017 In this edition GDP growth: South Africa’s GDP grew by 0,8% in the fourth quarter of 2017, representing a 1,9% increase from the fourth quarter of 2016. Compared to the previous two years, it signalled three quarters of relatively strong growth. Read more. Employment: Employment in the real economy was lower in the fourth quarter of 2017 than a year earlier. The job losses occurred in agriculture and construction; manufacturing saw a modest increase in employment; and mining employment remained essentially unchanged. Most of the growth in manufacturing resulted from job creation in…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Third Quarter 2017 In this edition GDP growth: The past six months have seen the GDP recover from the contraction that marked the previous six months. Still, growth remains more variable, and generally slower, than it was before 2014. Increased variability in the GDP results in part from the end of the commodity boom and in part from fluctuations in agriculture as a result of the 2015 drought. While mining and manufacturing have seen fairly stable growth, construction slowed markedly in the year to September 2017. Private investment has continued to fall, and was a…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Second Quarter 2017 In this edition GDP growth: South Africa’s recovery in the second quarter of 2017 continued an emerging pattern of sharp quarterly fluctuations in growth. In this case, expansion was driven principally by agriculture and mining, with only a modest improvement in manufacturing and a decline in construction. On the expenditure side, household consumption underpinned the recovery, with a continued slowdown in government spending and a further fall in investment, especially by the private sector and parastatals. Read more. Employment: As a contrast to growth in GDP, according to the official data, employment in…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - First Quarter 2017 In this edition: GDP growth:  South Africa entered a technical recession with a second quarter of contraction in a row. Investment emerges as the primary drag on economy growth, as confirmed by the decrease in mining production and the sectoral slowdown in utilities and construction. While manufacturing returned to growth over the past year, sales were still depressed, showing a slight decline. Read more. Employment: Employment reportedly climbed 500 000 in the year to the first quarter of 2017, reaching 16.2 million. Business services, manufacturing (primarily wood and paper, and food and beverages)…
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Fourth Quarter 2016 In this edition: Quarterly GDP growth: South Africa’s GDP fell by 0.08% over the past quarter, driven mostly by a decline in the real economy, above all mining. Mining contracted by 3,0%, manufacturing by 0,8%, and agriculture by 0,1%. These trends contributed to the continued slowdown in growth, which came to just 0,3% for 2016 as a whole. Read more. Employment: Employment showed the typical seasonal bump from the third to the fourth quarter, growing 250 000 overall. Year-on-year figures, which compensate for seasonal fluctuations, show more modest growth, at 50 000.…
Main bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Third Quarter 2016 In this edition:  Quarterly GDP growth: South Africa’s third quarter GDP growth, seasonally adjusted but not annualised, fell back to 0,05% compared to the surprisingly strong 0,8% expansion in the second quarter. Mining continued to recover from the sharp drop in the second quarter, growing by 1,4%, while manufacturing gave up the gains it made in the previous quarter. Agriculture lost ground for the seventh quarter in a row. Read more. Employment: Total employment remained virtually unchanged from the third quarter of 2015 to the third quarter of 2016. But the composition of…
Main bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Second Quarter 2016 In this edition: Quarterly GDP growth: South Africa’s GDP grew by 0,8% in the second quarter of 2016, in a marked recovery from the 0,3% contraction in the first quarter of the year.  Mining and manufacturing made the largest sectoral contributions to growth. Mining grew (quarter on quarter) by 2,8%, while manufacturing grew by 2,0%. Agriculture continued to decline as the drought persisted, utilities fell by 0,4% and construction remained unchanged. Read more. Employment: Despite the relatively rapid growth in GDP in the second quarter of 2016, according to the official data employment in…
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