Unemployment hits 1.92 million

Men applying for jobs

The number of people out of work rose by 131,000 between September and November to hit 1.92 million - the highest level of unemployment since August 1997.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows that unemployment rose by 77,900 in December, slightly lower than analysts' expectations of an 82,000 rise. The number claiming unemployment benefit now stands at 1.157 million – the highest since 2000 – and experts now predict this will surpass two million in the latter half of 2009.

Alternative data from the International Labour Organisation shows unemployment hit 6.1%, or 1.92 million, between September and November.

Charles Davis, economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, says: “While Obamamania may have distracted us all, there is no stopping the grim economic news in the UK.

“The data shows vividly how the economy deteriorated in the final quarter of 2008 following the nadir of the financial crisis in September.

“One hopes that unconventional measures from the government and Bank of England can help businesses and jobs survive by boosting lending, but a severe downturn is already well in train.”

Davis warns that the figures will be a particular concern for graduates, many of whom may struggle to find work when they finish their studies.

The unemployment rate amongst 18-24 year olds hit 14.5% over the quarter to November, up from 12.1% during the same period last year.