Employment and earnings by industry before Covid-19

Type Working Paper - SALDRU Working Paper
Title Employment and earnings by industry before Covid-19
Issue 277
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2021
URL http://www.opensaldru.uct.ac.za/bitstream/handle/11090/1005/2021_277_Saldruwp.pdf?sequence=1
Employment levels and the distribution of earnings by industry in 2010 and 2019/20 are examined in this paper, illustrating trends over this decade before the impact of Covid-19 and the accompanying economic downturn. Drawing on both the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) and the Quarterly Employment Statistics (QES) aggregates, we provide estimates of the distribution of earnings consistent with the System of National Accounts (SNA) income and production aggregates. We draw attention to similarities and differences between the QLFS, QES and SNA data sources, and note differences in the implicit trends over the 2010-2020 decade. We provide distributions of gross earnings within eleven employment and industry sectors, consistent with the national accounts compensation of employees’ aggregates adjusted to include earned income attributable to employers and the self-employed in unincorporated enterprises. We find evidence that the national accounts have under-estimated growth in earnings since 2010, and that the levels of both nominal and real GDP in recent years are understated. Nonetheless we find that QLFS estimates of earnings have to be raised by about 50 per cent in order to generate earnings levels consistent with the national production accounts. The adjustments required vary considerably by industry. We compile uprated earnings distributions by industry in two ways: aligned with industry-specific SNA aggregate earnings, and uniformly uprated to align with aggregate SNA earnings. Both employment and earnings were severely disrupted by the 2020 Covid-19 economic shock. At the time of writing (early 2021) the economic recovery path is far from clear. This paper provides sectoral benchmark data from official sources against which the recovery might be assessed, but also indicates that there are substantial discrepancies between the available measures of earnings by industry.

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