Budget 2012: Tracking the UK economy

The economic downturn has taken its toll on the UK's workforce.

Unemployment had been falling more or less steadily for 15 years until 2008, when it began its rise to the current level of 2.67 million or 8.4%.

However, young people have been much harder hit than other age groups.

In the three months to January, the number of 16 to 24-year-olds without a job rose by 16,000 to 1.042 million, taking their unemployment rate to 22.5%. This figure includes young people in full-time education who are also looking for work.

The latest rise was the lowest in almost a year.

The government said the data showed the situation was "stabilising", but Labour said ministers were being "complacent".