Picture: Leon Lestrade

Johannesburg – The number of people without gainful employment dropped 92 000 in the last quarter of 2016.

As a consequence, Statistics SA says in a statement released on Tuesday, the unemployment rate is now 26.5 percent, which represents a 0.6 percentage point decline.

In the third quarter, South Africa's unemployment rose to its highest in 13 years, with manufacturing, mining and agriculture sectors all shedding jobs

In its Tuesday statement, the statistics agency noted the working age population grew by 155 000 people, or 0.4 percent, and the labour force by 143 000. Unemployment was 27.1 percent in the third quarter.

South Africans can legally start working at 15.

Read also: SA's unemployment at highest since 2003

However, the stats agency said, the “not economically active population” increased by 12 000, of which 1 000 were discouraged work-seekers.

Stats SA only counts people who are actively out of work and seeking work as unemployed.

It notes employment rose in all sectors; formal sector employment increased by 127 000 while informal sector employment increased by 53 000.

Employment in agriculture, which was hard hit by last year’s drought – the worst in recorded history, gained 38 000, while private household agriculture employment gained 17 000 jobs.

Year-on-year, employment increased by 51 000 or 0.3 percent while unemployment grew by 588 000 or 11.3 percent.

This led to an increase in the unemployment rate by 2 percentage points to 26.5 percent.

Despite the quarterly growth, the inactive population in the last quarter declined by 6 000 year-on-year, which mainly observed in the not economically active population.

The quarterly employment gains of 235 000 in the quarter were driven by increases in eight of the ten industries, and included community and social services, transport, manufacturing and agriculture.

Mining and construction shed jobs.

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE