The latest UK jobs figures suggest the labour market remains weak even though there was an unexpected fall in the number of people claiming jobless benefits in December.
In the three months to November there were more Britons out of work than in the previous eight months.
Economists expect unemployment to rise this year as government spending cuts will slash 330,000 public sector jobs over the next four years.
The Office for National Statistics said the number of people out of work – using the International Labour Organisation measure – rose by 49,000 to 2.498 million in the three months to November – the biggest increase since March 2010. However, that was not enough to lift November’s jobless rate from the 7.9 percent level in the three months to October.
The rate of claimant count unemployment held steady at 4.5 percent in December, despite an unexpected fall of 4,100 in the number of people registering for jobless benefits.
For 16 to 24 year-olds joblessness was the highest since such records began in 1992.
Wage growth also remained in check, offering support to the Bank of England’s assertion that high inflation will not feed into pay settlements. That gives it an option to hold off raising interest rates for now.