16th March 2011
Meanwhile the total number of unemployed hit a 17-year high, with more than 2.53 million Britons out of work in the three months to January, the largest number since 1994.
The ONS says the jobless rate hit a 10-month high of 8% over the three monthly period, as 27,000 people joined the ranks of the unemployed.
However, the number of Britons claiming unemployment benefits dropped in February. The total claiming Jobseeker's Allowance fell by 10,200 last month to 1.45m, the biggest reduction since last June.
Public sector employment fell by 45,000 in the final quarter of 2010 to 6.2m, even before the full impact of the Government's spending cuts started to take effect.
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) described the figures as "shocking". TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "Over a year after the recession technically ended unemployment is now at its highest level since the mid 1990s, with 2.53 million people out of work.
"The increase in the unemployment rate for young people is of real concern. Youth unemployment is at a record high, with more than a fifth of young people unable to find jobs, the risks for the future are very real."
David Birne, an insolvency partner at HW Fisher & Company chartered accountants, agreed that the outlook is bleak for Britain's young people. "More needs to be done now to avoid a serious knock-on effect in years to come," he says, "There is no doubt whatsoever that unemployment will continue to rise from 2.53million throughout 2011 and into 2012. It's still early days in terms of public sector job cuts while the private sector is in dire straits."
The ONS figures also revealed that nearly 1 million over-65s in the UK are forced to carry on working as they can't afford to retire. The number of people working past the state pension age reached 900,000 in the three months to January, up 56,000 from the previous quarter. This is a 16.9% jump year-on-year and 6.6% rise over the three months – the highest since records began in 1992.
On the Telegraph experts debated why unemployment has soared. Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, said: "Jobs data may well be mixed in the near term, but we suspect that unemployment will trend up gradually later on in 2011 as below-trend growth means that the private sector is unable to fully compensate for the marked job losses in the public sector resulting from the increasing fiscal squeeze."
Martina Milburn, chief executive of youth charity The Prince's Trust, said: "Each month this year youth unemployment figures have reached record levels. Sadly Britain is breaking records for all the wrong reasons.
"We need to help young people back into work to strengthen the economy, communities and families."
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