The total number of unemployed people increased by 44,000 in the last three months of 2010 to reach 2.49 million, a jobless rate of 7.9%, figures from the Office of National Statistics show.
The unemployment rate for those aged from 16 to 24 increased by 1.5 on the quarter to reach 20.5%, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992.
The number of unemployed 16 to 24 year olds increased by 66,000 on the quarter to reach 965,000, also the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992.
The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance increased by 2,400 between December 2010 and January 2011 to reach 1.46 million.
Jobseeker’s Allowance increased by 6,600 on the month to reach 244,500, the highest figure since comparable records for this series began in 1997.
The inactivity rate for those aged from 16 to 64 for the three months to December 2010 was 23.4%, up 0.2 on the quarter.
The number of economically inactive people aged from 16 to 64 increased by 93,000 over the quarter to reach 9.36 million.
Brian Johnson, an insolvency practitioner at HW Fisher & Company, says: “The youth unemployment figure, just short of a million, is a modern-day tragedy. Its ripple effect will last for many years to come.
“The problem is that unemployment is certain to rise further during 2011. Public sector cuts are still in their infancy and the private sector is on the rack. It’s unrealistic to think that the private sector can take up the public sector slack.”
He says Many SMEs are fighting to survive and the last thing they are thinking about right now is new staff and expansion. If anything, further cut-backs are more likely.
He adds: “This week’s inflation figures are going to have a major effect on unemployment levels moving forward.
“Rate rises in the near future now look certain and increased borrowing and loan repayment costs will further inhibit many struggling companies.
“If employment in the SME sector is going to rise, the banks need to lend to fund expansion growth. There is rhetoric and there is reality.
“However, the weakness of many companies means they are simply not able to satisfy the lending criteria of the banks. We are in a vicious Catch 22.”