The number of people unemployed in the UK rose by 43,000 to 2.5 million during the three months to February, its highest level since 1994, official figures showed yesterday.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures showed youth unemployment rising, with 929,000 16 to 24-year-olds out of work in the December to February period – a rise of 4,000 on the previous three months.
Unemployment among the over-50s rose by 7,000 to 396,000.
The ONS said: ‘The unemployment rate for the three months to February 2010 was 8.0 per cent.’
The number of people unemployed for more than twelve months increased by 89,000 over the quarter to reach 726,000, the highest figure since the three months to July 1997.
‘The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (the claimant count) decreased by 32,900 between February and March 2010 to reach 1.54 million. The claimant count has fallen for four out of the last five months.
‘The inactivity rate for the three months to February 2010 was 21.5 per cent.
‘The rate has not been higher since the three months to October 2004 and it is up 0.3 on the quarter.
‘The number of inactive people of working age increased by 110,000 over the quarter to reach a record high of 8.16 million.
‘This increase in inactivity was largely driven by the number of students not in the labour market which increased by 71,000 on the quarter to reach 2.30 million.’
Commenting on the figures, Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, said: ‘Record high unemployment is desperate news for families and communities.
‘It proves that now more than ever, public spending must be kept up. Hard and fast cuts will risk a damaging double dip recession.
‘It makes no sense to add public service workers to the mounting toll of unemployed.
‘Public sector workers need to be working, providing essential services, spending money in shops and businesses, keeping local economies moving.
‘It is a disgrace that Tory councils are ploughing ahead with job cuts when they have billions in reserves.
‘Many jobs in private companies owe their survival to providing services to councils – this money is needed now to help communities through the recession.’