The number of unemployed people has risen by 30,000 to 2.46 million, the smallest rise since May 2008, official figures have shown.
Office for National Statistics data found the jobless rate rose to 7.8% for July to September 2009, a 0.1 percentage point increase. The employment rate now stands at 72.5%.
However, youth unemployment continued to spiral, rising to a record high of 19.8%. The number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work increased by 15,000 to 943,000, the quarterly statistics revealed.
Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, said: “Today’s unemployment figures are a major disappointment. We know that there are far fewer graduate vacancies this year and that the situation for graduates is tough.”
He added: “It is still too early to say whether we are likely to see an improvement in 2010 but there is optimism among graduate recruiters that the situation should start to ease somewhat. We saw one in four graduate vacancies disappear this year and it will take time before 2008 levels are restored.”
The figures also revealed the number of people out of work for more than 12 months has soared to 618,000, up from 546,00 in the three months to June 2009.
The number of over-50s out of work reached 367,000, down from 369,000 in the previous quarter.
The Average Earnings Index, including bonuses, rose by 1.2% on a year earlier. Excluding bonuses, it rose by 1.8% year-on-year.
The claimant count increased by 12,900 on the month to reach 1.64 million, the highest number of claimants since April 1997. However, this is the smallest monthly increase in the claimant count since April 2008.
The number of vacancies in the three months to October 2009 was 428,000, the lowest figure since records for this series began in 2001. However, it was only 1,000 lower than the figure for the previous quarter and it is the smallest monthly fall since the three months to April 2008.
John Atkinson, associate director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said: ‘Today’s employment figures strongly suggest that we have now approached the deepest point of the employment downturn. A careful look at the figures shows that although the claimant count continues to rise, it is now doing so at less than a quarter of the rate seen a year ago. Furthermore, the fall in the number of vacancies seen during the past year seems now to have stabilised.”
He added employers’ strategies to save jobs during the recession, such as shorter working weeks or pay freezes, would have helped keep the jobless numbers down, unlike previous recessions.