About 395 000 jobs were lost in 2010 compared to the previous year, Statistics SA said on Wednesday.
Around 13.1 million people were employed in 2010 compared to 13.5 million in 2009.
"This indicates the country has not yet fully recovered from the economic downturn in 2009," Stats SA deputy director-general for population and social statistics Kefiloe Masiteng told reporters in Pretoria.
However, the level of employment in 2010, at 13.1 million, was still higher than that of 2005, when it was 12.8 million.
Jobs in the formal sector shrunk by 3.5% in 2010 compared to the previous year. Employment in the informal sector grew by 1.4%.
Of those people in jobs, the median monthly earnings were R2 900.
A third of workers - excluding agriculture - earned less than this.
The age profile of the working population showed the labour market was struggling to absorb young people, Masiteng said.
About one in four working age people was between the ages of 25 and 34.
People of this age made up 41% of unemployed people, while more than half of the not economically active category were aged between 15 and 24.
The figures were contained in the labour market dynamics report for 2010.