Jobs market 'fragile' for years
The UK's employment rate might not return to pre-recession levels for another five years, and far longer in some parts of the country, the TUC has warned.
The union organisation said employment rates in the North of England had fallen over the past year despite a rise of 0.5% over the UK as a whole.
The gap in employment levels between the best and worst performing regions had widened to almost 10%, with 75% of working age adults in work in the South East, compared with 65.5% in the North East.
More than 400,000 new jobs had been created in the past year but these were not enough to bring the labour market back to its former health soon, said the TUC.
The report, published ahead of the latest unemployment figures, warned that the Government's public spending cuts and falling consumer and business confidence could lead to the jobs recovery going into reverse.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "While recent employment figures have been better than expected, the UK labour market is still very fragile and a long way off the level of jobs we had before the recession.
"New jobs are not being distributed evenly across the country, with employment conditions across northern England actually getting worse in the last 12 months. The Government's spending cuts have already hit consumer and business confidence, and they will start to cause heavy job losses in the public sector too.
"Businesses simply cannot create enough jobs to cope with the Chancellor's cuts, which are putting a huge brake on our recovery. The Government must rethink its economic strategy before unemployment starts rising again."
A separate report showed that half of businesses had no plans to take on a graduate or school-leaver this year, making prospects for young jobseekers "even bleaker".
Employment minister Chris Grayling said: "I think people need to be careful not to talk down our economic prospects. There's been a big improvement in private sector employment in recent months and it's really important we send out the right messages to encourage businesses to invest and to create jobs."