Results released by StatsSA for the country’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey reveal that by Q4 of 2022 there were 310 000 discouraged work seekers in Durban, and 262 000 unemployed people actively looking for work. Apart from during strict lockdown, this is the first time in Durban there have been more of the former than the latter.
For policy makers, this begs pertinent questions. Apart from obvious and prevailing market conditions, what factors contribute to unemployment, and discouragement amongst job seekers? What explains 73 000 job seekers completely giving upon actively seeking work, in the space of three months?
Some endogenic factors appear to provide insight; one being education. For example, when assessing the five-year average of discouraged work seekers as a percentage of all 16- 64-year-olds in Durban, only 33% of those who have not completed secondary schooling have a job, while they are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than graduates. Further to this, job seekers who have not completed secondary schooling are almost three times as likely to give up hope of finding work, when compared to (tertiary education) graduates.
Differently put, tertiary graduates are by far more likely to be employed; at 69% of all graduates having a job, and almost 80% in the labour market; either employed or actively job seeking. Those that have not completed secondary schooling (1.36mn people in Durban), are 58% likely not to be part of the labour market- either through discouragement about not finding a job (8%), or due to non-participation (e.g. completion of studies underway, stay at home parenting, medical inability to be economically active, etc; 50%).
Given that tertiary education is a clear contributing factor both for finding work and for fueling hope for the same, it is important to understand whether the type or level of higher education makes a difference. Over the past 5 years, there have been an annual average of 341 434 higher education graduates in Durban. However in order to strengthen the analysis, an assessment was done of higher education graduates across all SA metros. The data shows that higher NQF levels are associated with lower unemployment rates and higher employment rates, as illustrated in the graphs. 
Despite an increase in the number of jobs, the spatial spread of employment has not improved over the past few years. In the 2017/18 tax year, there were 837, 114 full-time equivalent jobs, and this number increased to 901, 884 in the 2021/22 tax year. Jobs however, remained concentrated around the T formation of Durban’s economy; i.e. along the N2 and N3 corridors.
In summary, the Quarterly Labour Force Survey results released by StatsSA indicate a worrisome trend in Durban's job market where discouraged work seekers outnumber unemployed people actively seeking work. Education plays a crucial role in employment status, as those who have not completed secondary schooling are more likely to be unemployed or discouraged.
Tertiary education is a contributing factor to finding work and higher NQF levels are associated with better employment outcomes. Unfortunately, the spatial spread of employment has not improved in recent years, with jobs still concentrated along specific corridors.
These findings suggest that policy makers should focus increasingly on skills development, and increase budget allocation to such in order to ensure sustainable employment creation for the job market. The data makes clear the role of popular public works programmes rolled out by government, directed at low skilled job seekers. Such programmes are by and large poverty alleviation initiatives, in effect, and will not change the structure and employability of the labour market.
Ultimately, both the City and country’s unemployment problem may be assisted by increasing NQF levels of job seekers, together with additional investment development outside of the N2 and N3 corridors, to increase opportunities available for those seeking them.
 "Post Higher Diploma" refers to both Masters and Doctoral diplomas.