Another huge jobs cull by banking giant Lloyds has cast a cloud over a fall in the UK's unemployment total, dealing a "devastating blow" to finance workers.
The part-nationalised bank was criticised by unions for announcing plans to axe 4,500 jobs, taking the total number of losses to 20,000 since the start of last year.
The news came just hours after official figures showed a 20,000 fall in unemployment to 2.45 million, the lowest so far this year.
But long-term unemployment rose to its highest in 13 years, and the numbers claiming Jobseeker's Allowance increased by 5,300 in September to 1.47 million, the second consecutive monthly rise, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Vicky Redwood, senior economist at Capital Economics, said the figures provide further evidence that the labour market recovery is faltering, even before public sector job cuts began, while Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said he expects a deteriorating trend to emerge.
Union leaders said the figures are the "calm before the storm" of next week's comprehensive spending review, following a grim warning from accountancy giant PwC that almost 500,000 jobs could be lost in the private sector because of the Government's spending cuts, pushing the total number of possible losses to a million.
Despite the fall in unemployment, the number of jobless women increased by 36,000 over the quarter to August to just over a million, while the number of vacancies across the economy was 30,000 down in the three months to September to 459,000.
The number of people out of work for over a year was 821,000 in the quarter to August, up by 27,000 from the previous three months, reaching the highest total since early 1997, while jobless 18 to 24-year-olds increased by 35,000 to 742,000, the worst for a year.
The number of workers in part-time jobs reached a record high of almost eight million, while self-employment also grew to a new record of almost four million.
Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: "Another rise in employment is a step in the right direction but clearly our priority is to get the economy motoring again, reduce the deficit and make the UK an attractive place for investment to encourage growth."