The number of people out of work between October and December was 663,000, the highest figure since the three months to September 1997.
The number of unemployed was 2.46m in the three months to December, down 3,000 from the three months to September but up 448,000 from a year earlier.
The rate of UK unemployment has remained unchanged at 7.8%.
The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance between December and January rose by 23,500 to reach 1.64m, the highest figure since April 1997, following two months of consecutive falls.
Unemployment for 18 to 24 year olds went from 738,000 in the three months to September to 725,000 in the three months to December 2009, a fall of 13,000.