Job applicants queue to receive paperwork in Durban. File picture: Rogan Ward

Pretoria - South Africa's unemployment rose to its highest in 13 years in the third quarter, with manufacturing, mining and agriculture sectors all shedding jobs, the statistics agency said on Tuesday.

Africa's most industrialised economy has grown lethargically over the last six years, making it hard to recoup the one million jobs lost during a 2008/9 recession.

The jobless rate rose to 27.1 percent of the labour force in the three months to September, from 26.6 percent in the second quarter, Statistics South Africa said on Tuesday.

“Unemployment is the highest since 2003. The highest unemployment rate prior to 2003 was probably around 30 percent in 2000,” Statistician-General Pali Lehohla told a news conference.

The rand held its ground despite the gloomy jobs data, propped up by firmer metal prices which boosted commodity currencies. It traded at 14.0800/dollar by 1110 GMT, slightly off a session high of 14.0525 but still up 0.9 percent on the day.

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Stats SA said 5.873 million people were without jobs in the third quarter, compared with 5.634 million previously.

“The sectors that are the real economy have generated negative growth, both quarter on quarter and year on year. Manufacturing mining and agriculture have all been losing jobs,” Lehohla said.

The manufacturing sector, which accounts for about 15 percent of gross domestic product, lost 28 000 jobs while mining lost 9 000.

The expanded definition of unemployment, which includes people who have stopped looking for work, was slightly lower at 36.3 percent in the third quarter, from 36.4 percent in the second.