A plan by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to axe thousands of extra jobs from its Jobcentres by March 2011 has been attacked as "economically absurd" by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union.
The DWP has said that it will reduce the number of Jobcentre staff by 2,000, in addition to the 4,500 job cuts already announced by the previous government in the 2007 spending review.
The reduction in Jobcentre staff, from about 82,500 to 76,500, will be made by not renewing fixed-term appointments, and by freezing external recruitment, the DWP said.
The announcement is one of the first examples of large-scale job cuts in the public sector since the coalition government's Emergency Budget last week. Up to 725,000 jobs could be axed over the next five years as the government tries to cut the £156bn budget deficit.
The PCS union, which has more than 300,000 members, claimed the DWP was actually cutting 8,000 jobs.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "When unemployment is still rising, it's economically absurd to drive even more people out of work and sever the lifeline for thousands and thousands of vulnerable people in our communities."
The PCS urged the government to invest in the public sector and create jobs to increase tax revenues and reduce welfare payments.
A DWP spokeswoman said: "Like all parts of government, Jobcentre Plus must be financially responsible in the face of a national deficit."
She said the PCS's figure of 8,000 job cuts was based on a 2009 headcount for Jobcentre Plus, which has since fallen.
Earlier this month, TUC research revealed Jobseekers Allowance claimants are outnumbering vacancies by up to 23 to one in some areas of the UK.