Jobless rise largest for two years
The outlook for the UK's economic recovery has darkened as a surge in jobless youths triggered the largest increase in unemployment in nearly two years.
The country's jobless rate stood at 2.51 million or 7.9% between May and July, the Office for National Statistics said, after the total number of unemployed increased by 80,000. This was the largest quarterly increase in unemployment since the three months to August 2009, while economists had expected a rise of around 70,000.
Within these figures, the number of unemployed 18 to 24-year-olds surged by 77,000 to 769,000, the ONS said.
Elsewhere, the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance increased by 20,300 to 1.58 million in August, the highest level of claimants since January 2010.
Average earnings increased by 2.8% between May and July, up by 0.1% over the previous month, with weekly wages now averaging £464. While this was the largest rise since April 2010, the increase in average wages was driven by higher bonuses in the financial sector and still falls far behind the high rate of inflation, which stood at 4.4% in July and increased to 4.5% in August.
The new figures come as a report from think-tank IPPR warned that the UK faces a "long and difficult" path back to full employment, with up to two million jobs needed to be created to return to pre-recession levels.
The number of employed people fell between May and July by 69,000 to 29.17 million, driven by public sector job cuts, which was the biggest fall since the quarter to March 2010.
The number employed in the public sector fell by 111,000 between March and June to reach 6.04 million, the largest fall since records began in 1999. In June, the public sector accounted for 20.7% of all people in employment, the lowest level since September 2008.
Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said: "Clearly, the figures are disappointing. They underline the scale of the challenge we face at the moment, particularly given slow growth in Europe and in North America."
Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said: "This is a day of misery on Britain's jobs front. Today we have the clearest and starkest evidence yet that the Government's plan for growth is hurting, not helping, Britain. Our unemployment is now climbing faster than the eurozone, Japan and America and we are now losing three times more jobs than we are creating."