unemployment rose by 128,000 in the three months to October, to 2.64 million people.
This is the highest level since 1994, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported yesterday.
It revealed that the jobless rate is now 8.3% of the adult population, up from 7.9% in the previous quarter.
Youth unemployment rose to 1.027 million, the highest since records began in 1992, beating the previous record set only last month.
The number of people out of work and claiming Jobseekers Allowance rose by 3,000 to 1.6 million in November.
The unemployment rate among 16 to 24-year-olds rose to 22% in the three months to October, up from 20.8% three months earlier.
The total number of people of all ages in employment fell by 63,000 compared with three months earlier, to 29.11 million.
Public sector job losses in the three months to September far outweighed job creation in the private sector.
Those out of work 12 months or more rose to 868,000 from 849,000 three months earlier, and account for one in three of all unemployed.
The number of job vacancies continued to decline, down 8,000 to 455,000.
Meanwhile, wages-value continued to fall, with paper increases well below the rate of inflation.
Excluding bonuses, average pay rose 1.8% from a year ago, and by just 0.1% from three months ago.
On Tuesday, the ONS reported that the rate of inflation – as measured by the Consumer Prices Index – was 4.8% in November.
In response to the unemployment figures, Paul Kenny GMB General Secretary said yesterday: ‘A double-dip Osborne recession, rising unemployment, rapidly falling living standards are the Tory/Lib Dem miserable Christmas gifts to the nation.
‘The millions of workers without jobs face a miserable Christmas and a bleak New Year.
‘Where are all the jobs that it promised to make up for the 710,000 jobs cut in the public sector as an act of deliberate policy?’
Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘This is a seriously bleak midwinter, as 128,000 more workers join the millions already on the dole queues.
‘These figures deliver a cold hard dose of reality. Private sector employment has increased by only 5,000, while the public sector has been hit with 67,000 job cuts – a huge gulf that the government will fail to fill. . .
‘The 54,000 increase in youth unemployment shows that young people are also bearing the brunt, creating a lost generation that the government will struggle to curb.’
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘There is no sign that the private sector is creating any jobs, and the government has no strategy for manufacturing which should be driving the economy.’
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: ‘Nowhere is the government’s inaction and impotency more graphically illustrated than at Bombardier in Derby where their kowtowing to the EU and Siemens has left thousands of manufacturing jobs and apprenticeships on the block. They are a total disgrace.’
The University and College Union (UCU) General Secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘Today’s figures are a worrying reminder that we need to do more to help young people get on.’
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘Rather than picking a fight with itself over Europe, the government must urgently turn its attention to the jobs crisis and invest in employment schemes to get people back into work and stave off the risk of mass long-term unemployment.’