ABOUT 108000 jobs were created last month, up from 24000 in February, according to the Adcorp employment index released on Tuesday.

This was also more than the 80000 created in January, and the figure - the strongest since the 2009 recession - showed that employment increased at an annualised rate of 6,8% in March, according to the recruitment and research company.

Temporary employment was 11,3% higher and permanent jobs up 9,2%. Growth in the informal sector was 0,6% and agency work dropped by 3098 jobs.

Employment growth in transport and logistics was 15,2%, while in electricity and utilities it was 13,3% and in mining 12%.

Researchers examining trends in employment figures in the latest index flagged a "growing crisis" in the South African trade-union movement.

"Since 2006, trade unions have lost 129424 members, which translates to a loss of R95773760 a year in membership dues," said Loane Sharp, labour market analyst at Adcorp, in a statement.

Setbacks for unions have been the reduction in their numbers since 2006, with total membership falling from about 3,5-million to roughly 3,3-million, and low participation in strikes, with attendance ranging from 0% to 8,8%.

Union membership in the mining sector has seen membership as high as 80,7%, while in agriculture just 4,4% of employees belong to a union, according to Adcorp.

"Where trade unions have been successful is in raising wages," said Mr Sharp. Between 1995 and 2011, after inflation, average remuneration in the non-agricultural sector increased from R9378 per month to R12564 per month. In the 15 years since the Labour Relations Act was introduced, after-inflation wages increased by 28,8%.

But, said Mr Sharp, unions had failed in the area of labour relations.

In 2010-11, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration received 156000 referrals, 62% of which were settled in favour of employees against employers. The Labour Court made 2042 decisions last year, with only 50% in favour of employees. The statistics reveal that workplace conflict has been largely unchanged over the past 10 years.

Mr Sharp said the rising occurrence of industrial action was not symptomatic of genuine employer/employee conflict, but rather a response to gradually declining union membership and lower worker participation in strikes.

SAPA