UK unemployment rose to 2.261 million in the three months to April, the highest since November 1996, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said yesterday.
The jobless rate rose to 7.2 per cent, the highest since July 1997, up 0.7 over the previous quarter and up 1.9 over the year.
The number of unemployed people increased by 232,000 over the quarter and by 605,000 over the year.
Young people have been hard-hit by the recession, with the unemployment rate for 18-24 year olds now at 16.6 per cent.
The claimant count or unemployed on the JobSeekers Allowance increased to 1.54 million for May, 39,300 up on the previous month, and up 726,100 for the year, rising to a rate of 4.8 per cent, the highest since November 1997.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘If we are to avoid the ten per cent unemployment rates of the 1980s and 1990s it is imperative the government continues to invest in tackling unemployment.
‘Youth unemployment is now at its highest rate for 15 years. And it will get far worse when millions of fresh school leavers and graduates start looking for work in the coming weeks.
‘Unemployment leaves a permanent scar on young people’s lives and government must do all it can to stop joblessness blighting another generation’s lives.’
The ONS said that the total number of people in employment for the three months to April 2009 was 29.11 million, down 271,000 over the quarter and down 399,000 over the year.
This is the largest quarterly fall in the number of people in employment since comparable records began in 1971.
The number of jobs fell by 108,000 between December 2008 and March 2009 to reach 31.19 million.
The sector showing the largest fall over the quarter was manufacturing which fell by 78,000 workers to reach 2.94 million, the lowest figure since comparable records began in 1978.
The redundancies level for the three months to April 2009 was 302,000, up 36,000 over the quarter and up 191,000 over the year. This is the highest figure since comparable records began in 1995.
There were 444,000 job vacancies in the three months to May 2009, down 38,000 over the previous quarter and down 230,000 over the year. This is the lowest figure since comparable records began in 2001.
Most sectors have shown falls in vacancies over the quarter with the largest fall occurring in finance and business services (down 18,000).
The inactivity rate for people of working age was 20.8 per cent for the three months to April 2009, up 0.2 over the previous quarter but unchanged over the year.
The number of economically inactive people of working age rose by 92,000 over the quarter and by 32,000 over the year to reach 7.89 million.
The category showing the largest quarterly increase was inactive students which increased by 83,000 to reach 2.14 million, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1993.