UK unemployment rises to 2.52m

Employment Minister Mark Hoban said the economy was healing but "tough challenges" remained

Unemployment rose by 7,000 to 2.52 million between November and January, according to official figures.

The rise will put extra pressure on Chancellor George Osborne in advance of his lunchtime Budget.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance in February fell by 1,500 to 1.54 million, the lowest level since June 2011, the Office for National Statistics said.

Despite the unemployment rise, the overall figure held at 7.8%.

Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: "Today's figures show that, against a difficult economic backdrop, we're helping people to move off benefits and into work.

"There are still tough challenges ahead which is why we're working hard to give jobseekers all the help and support they need to realise their aspiration of finding a job."

Analysis

When you are talking about jobless numbers of more than 2.5 million, an increase of 7,000 is in "margin for error" territory. Nevertheless, today's labour market news was something the chancellor could have done without on Budget Day.

There has been a run of positive news on jobs and this was the first increase in the wider measure of unemployment since early last year. He can point to another fall in the claimant count, the narrower measure covering those signing on for Jobseekers Allowance. There was another strong rise in the number of people in full time work.

But George Osborne can only hope that today's headline increase does not mark a significant change in the labour market, with the jobless figure rising from here.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said: "Halfway through the Parliament, Britain is still being scarred by rising unemployment and it is our next generation that is paying a brutal price.

"Today, youth unemployment has soared back up towards the million mark, overall unemployment is up and unemployment amongst women is up yet again."

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, the UK's largest union, said: "This time five years ago there were one million fewer unemployed people in the UK. The government has failed every single one of these people - and it has failed our country."

Youth unemployment

The number of young people aged 16-24 without a job rose to 993,000 over the three months, taking the youth unemployment rate to 21.2%.

Labour's Liam Byrne: "What the facts are saying is you've got to change course"

Martina Milburn, chief executive of the Prince's Trust, said: "Youth unemployment is now back on the rise, and urgent action is needed before thousands more young people find themselves out of work.

"With help from the government and employers, we now plan to increase our support to give hope to struggling young people across the UK," she added.

The chancellor may take some comfort from the fact that unemployment is still 152,000 lower than a year ago, while private sector employment rose by 151,000 to 24 million over the three months.

But while workers' average earnings rose 1.2% over the three months, compared to the same period in 2011-12, inflation running at 2.7% meant that they fell in real terms.

Regionally, the jobless rate in Northern Ireland rose to 8.5%, its highest level for 15 years, second only to the North East of England at 9.8%.

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