The economy shed 75 000 jobs in the first quarter of the year, according to figures released by Statistics SA (StatsSA) on Tuesday.
This was despite growth in the agricultural sector, which gained 26 000 jobs, and in private households, which created a 33 000 jobs in the first quarter of 2012, according to the quarterly labour force survey.
However, the number of job losses were still down on the last quarter of 2011, when the formal sector shed 107 000 jobs.
According to the survey, 28 000 jobs were lost in the informal sector in the first quarter of 2012.
StatsSA said an additional 207 000 people were participating in the labour market since last year. They included new market entrants.
The labour force participation rate had increased to 54.7 percent.
The survey found that the unemployment rate had increased by 1.3 percentage points to 25.2 percent, as a result of the increased labour force, and a decline in employment.
Construction and manufacturing had declined by 6.7 percent and 3.7 percent from the last quarter.
Compared to the same period last year, employment increased by 290 000 jobs, a 3.1 percent increase.
The growth in employment was driven by trade (127 000 jobs), community and social services (121 000) and finance (102 000).
At the start of the year, unemployment usually shows an increase.
The survey found that around 4.5 million people were unemployed in the first quarter, an increase of 282 000 people.
Of these, 3.1 million (67.8 percent) had been looking for work for at least a year.
A total of 59.6 percent did not have matric and 44 percent had not worked before.