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Joblessness figures 'very worrying'

The UK's jobs "crisis" has worsened after the unemployment rate reached a 16-year high and new figures showed a record number of people working part-time because they cannot find full-time positions.

Women's unemployment increased to its highest level for over 20 years, youth joblessness continued to rise and jobseeker's allowance claimants increased for the eleventh month in a row.

Thomson Airways added to the gloom by starting to consult staff over redundancies, raising the prospect of hundreds of job losses. However Virgin Atlantic provided some good news by launching a recruitment drive for 500 cabin crew under plans to expand the airline's network and fleet for 2012.

The Government said the unemployment figures showed that despite continuing economic challenges, the labour market was stabilising.

Welfare reform minister Lord Freud said: "The latest figures show some encouraging signs of stability despite the challenging economic climate."

Labour and unions attacked the Government amid warnings that a generation faced the jobs "scrapheap".

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "These figures are bad, although thankfully not quite the disaster we saw at the end of last year.

"With one in three jobseekers looking for work for over a year, and around six unemployed people for every job, the Government's mantra that there are plenty of jobs out there just doesn't ring true."

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "Month after month, we see unemployment rising and we see a Government which has dangerous complacency and simply carries on as it is with an economic strategy that is not working.

"It is a tragedy that so many young people are out of work in this country. We should be offering them real hope."

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