Unemployment has soared by 49,000 to 2.5 million, with a record number of young people out of work, new figures have shown.
One in five 16 to 24-year-olds are jobless after an increase of 32,000 in the quarter to November to 951,000, the highest figure since records began in 1992.
Employment levels have fallen, redundancies have increased and the number of people classed as economically inactive has reached 9.3 million, the grim figures revealed.
The only bright news from the Office for National Statistics was a 4,100 fall in the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance last month to 1.46 million.
The unemployment rate is now 7.9%, but for 16 to 24-year-olds it is 20.3%.
There were 157,000 redundancies in the latest quarter, up by 14,000 on the previous three months.
The inactivity rate is now 23.4% after an 89,000 increase in the number of people classed as economically inactive, including students, those looking after a sick relative and people who have given up looking for a job.
Employment fell by 69,000 to 29 million, the biggest drop since the summer of 2009. Public sector employment fell by 33,000 to six million between last June and September, while the number of private sector employees remained unchanged at 23 million.
Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: “These figures serve to underline the scale of the challenge we face. We inherited the largest budget deficit in peacetime history and high levels of worklessness, which we are determined to bring down by rebalancing the economy and supporting private sector jobs growth.
“More personalised support for jobseekers will be on offer through Jobcentre Plus and for the long-term unemployed who need extra help we are introducing our Work Programme in the summer, which will offer support tailored to individuals’ needs so that they can get into jobs and stay there.”