Cape Town - Employment rates declined in the first three months of the year, Statistician General Pali Lehohla said on Monday.

Releasing the quarterly labour force survey, Lehohla said the decline from the last three months of last year to the first quarter of this year stood at 122 000.

“The bulk of job losses were in the informal sector,” Lehohla said.

Employment in the formal sector remained largely stable, with 10.8 million people employed.

“The largest level of participation was in the Western Cape,” he said.

The decrease in employment meant that unemployment figures rose by 1.1 percent from quarter to quarter.

“Over the same period, the absorption rate decreased by 0.5 of a percentage point to 41.8 percent and the number of discouraged work-seekers increased by 154 000.”

The year-on-year picture looked better with employment rising by 496 000.

Unemployment, however, also grew by 205 000.

The trade sector contributed the most to the rise in employment with 154 000 jobs being created, followed by community and social services at 132 000 work opportunities.

“Employment has recovered to levels observed before the recession in 2008,” a Statistics South Africa document read.

“However, the proportion of those employed among the working age population is still lower than was observed before the recession.”