The number of unemployed people in the three months to April rose slightly to 2.47 million, according to official figures that paint a gloomy picture of the UK labour market.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that the unemployment rate for the three months to April was 7.9%, up by 0.1%, or 23,000, from the previous quarter,
The number of people unemployed for more than 12 months increased by 85,000 over the quarter to reach 772,000 – the highest figure since the three months to April 1997.
The number of economically inactive people of working age increased by 29,000 over the quarter, to a record high of 8.19 million.
The Department for Work and Pensions said the number of economically inactive people of working age highlighted the scale of the “welfare challenge” that the new government has to tackle.
Employment minister Chris Grayling said: “These figures underline why it was so important to stop the jobs tax planned by the previous government, and why we need to create real incentives for businesses to grow and create job opportunities.”
He added: “With nearly five million people on out-of-work benefits and record numbers of people who are economically inactive, we have to make sure that as the economy grows and jobs are created in the next few years we learn from the mistakes of the past, and ensure that we provide real help and support for people on benefits so they can take advantage of employment opportunities and make the move into work.”
However, the ONS figures did offer some encouraging news. The number of people unemployed for up to six months fell by 42,000, to reach 1.17 million. In addition, the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance fell by 30,900 between April and May 2010 to 1.48 million.