unemployment soared by another 48,000 to 2.67 million in the three months to December, the Office for National Statistics reported yesterday.
The official unemployment rate now stands at 8.4%, the highest for 16 years.
There was also a new record for the number of jobless youth, with the number of unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds rising 22,000 to 1.04m, taking the youth unemployment rate to 22.2%.
The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in January increased by 6,900 to 1.6 million.
In response to the figures, GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: ‘Austerity means 2.67m people are not working.
‘As it is clear that austerity and deflation as a policy is not working . . .
‘It is just not possible to deflate your way to growth.’
University and College Union (UCU) general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘The government has to rethink plans to make access to education even harder for people in this country.
‘We have record levels of unemployment and simply cannot afford to leave so many with no opportunities.
‘Education has the potential to change people’s lives and they will be far better off learning than joining an ever-increasing dole queue.
‘Government’s efforts to portray some people in society as work-shy and lazy are insulting and unfair when it is the government who is closing the door on their ambition to earn or learn.’
Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, said: ‘How bad do things have to get before this government wakes up to the human tragedy it is creating?
‘Rather than a headlong dash to austerity the government needs a plan B for jobs and growth.
‘It’s a tragedy that rising unemployment is now a familiar feature of life in Britain under the Tory-led government.
‘We have a complacent Chancellor consigning growing numbers to the dole queues. George Osborne is rapidly creating a lost generation of young people with no job prospects.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘The Tories’ economic policies aren’t working.
‘With the number of women out of work at a 16 year high, and one in three unemployed people out of work for more than a year, Cameron’s claims that we’re all in it together sound increasingly hollow.
‘It is wrong that the very people who can afford it least are shouldering the largest burden to pay down a deficit that isn’t of their making.’
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘With one in three jobseekers looking for work for over a year, and around six unemployed people for every job vacancy, the government’s mantra that there are “plenty of jobs out there” just doesn’t ring true.’
The TUC also warned against government plans to tear up Transfer of Undertakings and Protection of Employment (TUPE) regulations yesterday, warning that the outcome will be the further driving down of pay and increased unemployment.
Brendan Barber warned: ‘Weakening the guarantee on pay and conditions would encourage companies to compete for contracts based solely on wage and other employment costs, and not on the quality of service.
‘This could lead to an increase in poverty wages for the many female employees who work in catering and cleaning.’
All Trades Unions Alliance National Secretary Dave Wiltshire said: ‘The TUC must call a General Strike to bring down this government and bring in a workers’ government which will nationalise the banks and all the major industries without compensation and introduce a socialist planned economy, with jobs for all.’