South Africa’s unemployment rate, which is the highest of more than 40 emerging markets tracked by Bloomberg, fell last quarter to 24.1% as the government and informal industries added jobs.

The rate declined from a revised 24.5% in the previous three months, Statistics South Africa said in a report released today in Pretoria.

The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of six economists was 24.9%. The number of people without jobs fell by 50 000 to 4.8 million.

The economy has lost jobs since last year as strikes in mining and manufacturing and a slump in global demand crimped exports.

The ANC has pledged to create six million jobs over the next five years.

“Quarterly employment growth of 141 000 was supported to a large extent by the informal sector,” the statistics office said in its statement. “Most of the jobs gained were short-term contractual agreements suggesting they may be temporary in nature.”

Employment in community and social services industries, which includes the government, increased by 97 000 last quarter from the previous three months, while the retail and wholesale trade industries added 40 000 jobs, the statistics agency said.

The construction industry boosted employment by 59 000.

The economy is set to expand 2.8% this year compared with 1.9% in 2013, according to forecasts from the central bank, which raised the benchmark repurchase rate last month for the first time since June 2008 to 5.5%.

The biggest job losses came from the financial services industry, which fell by 23 000, and agriculture, which declined by 27 000. Manufacturing, which makes up about 15% of the economy, shed 12 000 jobs in the quarter.

President Jacob Zuma on December 18 signed into law a tax incentive program to help reduce joblessness among young people, even as labour unions criticised the plan.

The unemployment rate is compiled from a household survey covering the formal and informal industries.