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South Africa loses 395,000 jobs in 2010

South Africa lost 395,000 jobs in 2010 despite the expected windfall from hosting the football World Cup, the government said Wednesday, but President Jacob Zuma insisted a corner has been turned.

The poor showing last year followed the loss of 870,000 jobs in 2009, according to Statistics SA, meaning most of the job gains of the last six years have been wiped out.

Zuma, who has promised to create five million jobs by 2020, acknowledged the grim report but said that this year jobs are again being created.

“At this point there are 64,000 more jobs in the economy than a year ago,” Zuma said in a speech to the auto industry in the southern city of Port Elizabeth.

“But total employment, including both paid jobs and self-employment, is still substantially below 2008 levels,” he said.

“Worryingly, most jobs were lost by young people. They make up 30 percent of employed people but suffered 60 percent of jobs losses,” Zuma said, according to a transcript of his remarks.

“Given the sluggish pace of job creation, our decision to focus directly on this priority this year was correct. It really needs renewed national attention.”

The new report indicated that since the end of South Africa’s 2009 recession, the country is still battling to create jobs.

About 13.1 million people were employed in 2010, compared to 12.8 million in 2005, the government’s statistical agency said.

“This indicates the country has not yet fully recovered from the economic downturn in 2009,” Stats SA official Kefiloe Masiteng told reporters.

Last year also saw a shift of jobs from the formal economy to the informal sector. The number of jobs in the formal economy slipped 3.5 percent last year, while informal jobs increased by 1.4 percent, the agency said.

The research also found that whites in the work force tend to be better educated, with 43 percent holding a tertiary qualification, against 12 percent of blacks.

Among the South Africans who have jobs, 70 percent are black, against 15 percent for whites. But blacks make up 78 percent of the national population, against 10 percent for whites.

Zuma has made tackling unemployment his top priority, announcing in February that the government would spend nine billion rand ($1.4 billion, 942 million euros) over the next three years to create new jobs.

The country has struggled to add jobs despite rebounding in 2009 from its first recession since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Unemployment currently stands at 25.7 percent, but that counts only those actively seeking work, and does not capture the full extent of the jobless problem.