Labour market statistics issued by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the number of unemployed rose to 2.67 million – a jobless rate of 8.4%, in the quarter to December 2011.
Claimants for Jobseeker’s Allowance rose 6,900 in January to 1.6 million people while a 90,000 hike in part-time workers contributed to an overall 60,000 increase in employment to just over 29 million people.
Youth unemployment levels – which include 307,000 full-time students seeking work – grew 22,000 to 1.04 million and means 22.2% of 16 to 24 year olds are deemed jobless.
In the quarter to September 2011 67,000 jobs were shed across the public sector, of which the bulk, 30,000 were shed in education, 12,000 from health and social work and 8,000 by the NHS.
However, minister for welfare reform, Lord Feud said the latest figures show ‘encouraging signs of stability despite the challenging economic climate’.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said the majority of the 78,000 fall in inactivity – people out of work and not looking for employment - was due to the progress made through work programme in offering individuals tailored support to move from incapacity benefits.
Dr John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said: ‘The latest headline jobs data are considerably better than expected but closer analysis indicates that the UK labour market was in the doldrums at the end of 2011, neither contracting dramatically nor mounting anything approaching a decent recovery.’