Cape Town - South Africa's labour force decreased by 235 000 people between the third and fourth quarters of 2012, the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) revealed on Tuesday.
The QLFS is a household-based sample survey conducted by Statistics SA.
It covers the labour market activities of people aged 15 to 64. The latest survey covers the period from October to December.
A table in the document shows that the South African labour force numbered 18.313 million in the third quarter (July to September last year), but dropped to 18.078 million in the fourth quarter.
"The labour force decreased by 235 000 persons between [the third and fourth quarters] of 2012.
"This decrease was reflected in a decrease in the number of both unemployed persons (166 000) and employed persons (68 000), which saw the unemployment rate decline by 0.6 of a percentage point, from 25.5% to 24.9% in the fourth quarter."
Stats SA said this was the first time since the inception of the QLFS that there had been a decrease in employment in the fourth quarter of a year.
The decrease in employment was "attributable to job losses experienced in the formal sector (down by 52 000) and private households (down by 8 000)".
Employment in agriculture and in the informal sector had increased by 24 000 (3.6%) and 8 000 (0.4%) respectively.
"The number of discouraged work-seekers increased by 87 000 between quarter three and quarter four, while other not economically active persons increased by 259 000."
According to the table, there were 4.501 million unemployed in the fourth quarter of last year. During the same period, there were 15.050 million people "not economically active", a figure which included 2.257 million "discouraged work-seekers".
Of those employed over the period, 9.611 million were in the formal sector; 2.205 million in the informal sector; 685 000 in agriculture; and 1.076 million in "private households".
According to the survey, the fourth quarter labour force participation rate was 54.6, up from 55.5 the previous quarter.
There were 33.128 million people in the country in the 15 to 64-year-old age group.