The number of unemployed people increased by 23,000 to 2.47 million in the three months to April, according to data published today by the Office for National Statistics.
It serves as a stark reminder to the government that the jobs market is still bleak, particularly for the one million young people still out of work.
Analysis by the TUC union also reveals dole claimants are now outnumbering job vacancies by five to one, with London, the north east and Scotland the worst hit.
“The analysis of Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claimants and vacancies advertised in Jobcentre Plus shows that despite the recent economic recovery, the number of JSA claimants increased in half of all local authority areas between April 2009 and April 2010,” said Tom Wilson, director of unionlearn, TUC’s training body.
“The number of vacancies has also fallen in nearly 50 local authority areas over the last twelve months.”
In London, there are almost eight JSA claimants for every job vacancy. The capital also holds seven of the UK’s top ten unemployment blackspots, including Hackney, where claimants outnumber vacancies by 24 to one.
George Osborne, the chancellor, is expected to unveil a mass cull of public sector jobs in an Emergency Budget next week. Adding to spending cuts already announced by the coalition government, hundreds of thousands of additional workers face the dole as private businesses that sell services to the public sector are also hit.
Dr John Philpott, chief economic adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, questions whether the private sector will be able to fill the jobs gap once the process of public sector downsizing gets fully underway.
“In the absence of a strong private sector jobs recovery, the cull will lift headline unemployment toward 3 million by 2012,” said Dr Philpott.
“Moreover, while the private sector jobs market is improving all the net new jobs being created at present are either part-time, temp positions or filled by the self-employed.
“The number of employees and self-employed people working part-time because they could not find a full-time job has increased to 1.08 million, the highest level recorded since comparable figures were introduced in 1992.”
Young people could also find it harder to get on the career ladder because of the government’s decision to axe the Future Jobs Fund and the Young Person’s Guarantee of work.
The February-April quarter saw the number of 18-24 year olds in work rise by 48,000 – the first such increase since the start of the jobs recession in 2008.
It remains to be seen whether the government can show its welfare to work measures can maintain this momentum at a time when public spending is being cut.
According to unionlearn, faced with an increasingly competitive jobs market, the role of Further Education in supporting individuals to improve their skills has never been more important.
Mr Wilson said it was “of some relief that the recent £6bn reduction in public spending did not see the sector suffering a disproportionately large cut as has so often happened in the past”. However, he warned college provision could face significant cuts over the longer term.
“This would be a hugely retrograde step as FE provision is vital if we are going to achieve a robust economic recovery sooner rather than later and at the same time improve social cohesion, especially in our most disadvantaged communities.” he said.