The number of Britons out of work rose to its highest level in more than 17 years in November as the jobless rate reached 8.4 percent of the workforce – that is 2.68 million people.
The youth unemployment rate, that is 16- to 24-year-olds, hit 22.3 percent, the highest since records began.
The Office for National Statistics said the total number of people unemployed – using the broad, internationally-comparable International Labour Organisation – rose by 118,000 in the three months to November to 2.685 million, the highest level since August 1994.
However there was a slowdown in people claiming jobless benefit in December provided some hope that the labour market downturn may be flattening off.
There was a net increase of 1,200 benefit claims in December after a downwardly revised increase of just 200 in November. That is far below the 10,000 forecast by analysts and rises that were triple that in some months earlier in 2011.
Wage rises remain muted, with average weekly earnings rising by an annual 1.9 percent in the three months to November, far below the 4.2 percent rate of consumer price inflation.
The British government is cutting hundreds of thousands of jobs as part of its five-year budget deficit reduction programme, and the private sector is picking up only some of the slack as the eurozone crisis pushes Britain back towards recession.