unemployment rose 118,000 in the three months to November to 2.685 million, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported yesterday.
The unemployment rate rose from 8.3% up to 8.4%, the highest rate since January 1996.
The number of unemployed youth hit a new record of 1.043 million, taking the jobless rate for 16-24 year-olds to 22.3%.
Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary, said: ‘This rise in unemployment was made in Downing Street.
The truth is that jobs are haemorrhaging in the public and private sectors and no one in the government seems to know what to do to stop this.
‘There are parts of the country in such despair that more than a quarter of households with people of working age have no one in work.’
Unison General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said: ‘History is repeating itself. Now, as in the 1980s, the Tories are pushing through cuts and ignoring the impact of their actions on communities across the country.
‘Low paid women are also bearing the brunt, as they make up the majority of the public sector – where 700,000 jobs are being cut by 2017.’
University and College Union (UCU) general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘There is an entire generation of young people who were told throughout their time at school to aim higher and aspire to university.
‘They did that, but now they are seeing the door slammed in their faces as financial support is slashed, fees rocket and funding for universities is drastically cut.’
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘Once again young people, aged 18-to-24, are bearing the brunt of George Osborne’s cruel and blinkered economic and fiscal policies that have drained demand from the economy.
‘The next generation is being sacrificed on the altar of economic Thatcherite orthodoxy.
‘And what is of real concern for the future is that many forecasters are expecting the jobless figures to soar during 2012, peaking in 2013. This is clearly unacceptable.’
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘These figures are even worse than the bleak economic forecasts predicted, with new records achieved for youth and female unemployment.
‘The fear is now that mass joblessness becomes a permanent scar on the UK – with unemployment rising by 1,300 a day towards the end of last year.
‘We are in the midst of a full blown jobs crisis that is causing misery for millions and ruining any chance of an economic recovery.’
ATUA secretary Dave Wiltshire commented: ‘The time for action has arrived. The TUC must call a general strike to bring down the coalition and bring in a workers government.’