South Africa's unemployment rate rose to 26.7 percent of the labor force in the first quarter of this year from 24.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, data from the statistics office showed on Monday.
In its quarterly labor force survey which polls households, Statistics South Africa said this amounted to 5.714 million people without jobs in the first quarter compared with 5.2 million previously.
Analysts polled by Reuters expected the unemployment rate to edge up to 25.3 percent in the first quarter.
The expanded definition of unemployment, which includes people who have stopped looking for work, was at 36.3 percent in the first three months of the year, versus 33.8 percent previously.
The country's first quarter unemployment rate is the highest in the history of the survey which began in 2008, the head of the statistics agency said on Monday.
"The economic climate is not helping," said Statistician-General Pali Lehohla said, referring to an economy still struggling to grow after a 2008/09 recession slashed about a million jobs.