PRETORIA - South Africa's unemployment rate fell to 31.9% in the third quarter of this year from 32.6% in the second quarter, statistics agency data showed on Tuesday.

Statistics South Africa said the number of unemployed people was 7.849 million in the third quarter from 7.921 million in the second quarter.

Under an expanded definition of unemployment that includes people discouraged from seeking work, 41.2% of the labour force was jobless in July-September compared with 42.1% in April-June.

South Africa's unemployment rate remains one of the highest in the world.

Sectors like mining and manufacturing have seen a rapid decline in employment in the past decade, and sluggish economic growth has meant that relatively few new job opportunities have been created.

Local researchers at the Bureau for Economic Research said this week that economic growth likely slowed materially in the third quarter and possibly stagnated.

(Reporting by Kopano Gumbi Additional reporting by Tannur Anders Editing by Alexander Winning)