The government was given some grim pre-Christmas news on jobs today when unemployment increased by 35,000 and the number of young people out of work reached near-record levels.
The jobless total climbed to 2.5m in the quarter to October, a rate of 7.9%, the highest since the start of the year.
There were 839,000 people unemployed for more than a year, up by 41,000 over the three months and the worst figure since 1997.
The Office for National Statistics also reported that the number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work increased by 28,000 to 943,000, one of the highest figures since records began in 1992, giving a jobless rate of 19.8%.
Male unemployment increased by 11,000 to 1.46m, while the number of women out of work rose by 24,000 to 1.04m, the highest total since 1988.
There was also a rise in the number of people classed as economically inactive, including people looking after a sick relative, students or those who have given up looking for a job, up by 22,000 to 9.29m, a rate of 23.2%.
The category showing the biggest increase was those who have taken early retirement, which rose by 27,000 to 1.53m.
The number of people working part-time because they could not find a full-time job increased by 46,000 to 1.16m, a record high.
The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance fell by 1,200 last month to 1.46m, although the number claiming for up to six months rose by 11,600 to 954,900.
There were 158,000 redundancies in the latest quarter, up by 15,000, the first rise since April.
Employment fell by 33,000 to 29.13m, giving the first quarterly fall in the rate since April - down by 0.1% to 70.6%.
Average earnings increased by 2.2% in the year to October, up by 0.1% from the previous month.
Other figures showed that public sector employment has fallen by 33,000 to just over 6m, including 18,000 in local government and 8,000 in the civil service.
Private firms employed 23.11m workers, unchanged from the summer.