SOUTH Africa's unemployment rate declined to 24,9% in the second quarter of 2012 from 25,2% in the first quarter, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) said on Tuesday.

The expanded unemployment rate, which includes discouraged workers, also declined - to 36,2% from 36,6% in the previous quarter.

Stats SA deputy director-general Kefiloe Masiteng has described the latest unemployment figures as "a positive trend", despite sharp falls in employment in the manufacturing and trade sectors, which are two of the most important in the formal sector of the economy.

"Looking at the overall picture, you can conclude we are not out of the woods but there is hope," Mr Masiteng said.

Employment increased by 0,2%, or 25000 persons, between the first and second quarters of 2012, while unemployment declined by 0,3% or 56000 persons during that period.

The number of unemployed people now stands at 4,47-million while the number of employed people is at 13,447-million.

A breakdown of the data shows the trade sector shed 91000 jobs while the manufacturing sector shed 44000 jobs.

Employment in community and social services, which mainly reflects government employment, rose by 121000 between the first and second quarters of the year.

The number of discouraged work seekers who have given up looking for work declined by 24000 to 2,311-million people between the first and second quarters.

isam@bdfm.co.za