UK's jobless total edges towards 2.5 million
The scale of the jobs crisis facing the Government has been underlined as unemployment neared 2.5 million and the number of economically inactive people reached a record high of more than eight million.
Unemployment increased by 23,000 between February and April to 2.47 million, giving a jobless rate of 7.9%.
Long-term and youth unemployment both increased but the most striking figure was a 29,000 rise in people classed as economically inactive to 8.19 million - 21.5% of the working age population. The figure includes students, people looking after a relative, workers on long-term sick leave, or those who have given up looking for jobs.
The number of people in the long-term sick category rose by 58,000 to 2.07 million in the latest quarter. The number of people claiming jobseekers allowance fell by 30,900 in May to just under 1.5 million, the fourth consecutive monthly fall.
The number of people out of work for more than a year increased by 85,000 to 772,000 in the three months to April, while unemployment among 16 to 24-year-olds rose by 11,000 to 926,000.
Other data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed the number of full-time workers fell by 56,000 while part-timers rose by 61,000. The number of people working part-time because they could not find a full-time job increased by 45,000 to a record high of 1.08 million, Wednesday's figures revealed.
There was a slight increase of 5,000 in the number of people in employment in the latest quarter, to 28.8 million, but the figure was 213,000 lower than a year ago. Public sector employment fell by 7,000 in March to 6.09 million, while employees in private firms increased by 12,000 to 22.78 million.
The Government said the latest figures showed the scale of the welfare challenge it had to tackle.
Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: "These figures underline why it was so important to stop the jobs tax planned by the previous government, and why we need to create real incentives for businesses to grow and create job opportunities.
"With nearly five million people on out-of-work benefits and record numbers of people who are economically inactive, we have to make sure that as the economy grows and jobs are created in the next few years that we learn from the mistakes of the past, and ensure that we provide real help and support for people on benefits so they can take advantage of employment opportunities and make the move into work."