Employment in South Africa increased in the third quarter of 2016 by 288,000 to 15.8 million people, according to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA).

Releasing the results of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) report here Tuesday, Statistician General Pali Lehohla said the increase followed on two successive quarterly declines.

Formal sector jobs increased by 112,000 quarter-on-quarter to 11 million.

The report showed that growth in employment was driven by the construction and finance and other business services, which grew by 104,000 and 103,000 respectively. The agriculture sector saw growth of 56,000 jobs, while trade added 61,000 jobs.

" [When] people see that there is employment, their job search behaviour changes and they start searching. So we can have those two simultaneously happen ... 11 million people are in the formal sector and 2.6 million in the informal sector," Lehohla told a media briefing.

He added that 52 per cent of employed people in the country in the third quarter were aged between 35 and 54 years.

The services, trade and finances industries accounted for over 55 per cent of the employed and 60 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), while the community and social services industries remained as the largest employer.

Lehohla said while the number of employed people had increased from 14.4 million in 2008 to 15.8 million in 2016, the absorption rate in the country had not recovered to the pre-recession level of 45.8 per cent in 2008.

The unemployment rate increased by 0.5 per cent quarter-on-quarter to 27.1 per cent, the highest since 2003. According to the report, there were 5.9 million people unemployed in the third quarter. The unemployment rate among women was at 29.3 per cent, while that of men was at 25.2 per cent.