Unemployment has risen to 2.38 million in the three months to May – a record increase of 281,000.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics reveal the jobless rate was 7.6% – up 0.9% – which is the highest in 10 years.
In June, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits also increased by 23,800, to 1.56 million.
In the three months to May, 301,000 people were made redundant.
The Labour Market Statistics also revealed unemployment for 18- to 24- year olds reached 726,000 in the three months to May – up by 95,000 – but this is set to rise further as students leave universities and schools this summer.
Katja Hall, director of employment policy at the CBI, said: “The rise in youth unemployment is particularly worrying, and the government must target more help to prevent long-term damage to a generation.”
But employment minister Jim Knight has today insisted the government’s focus is on helping the young unemployed.
“This summer, our priority must be young people leaving education,” he said. “While people of all ages have suffered in this recession, the government recognises that unemployment for young people can adversely affect the rest of their working lives.
“We won’t abandon an entire generation of young people to long-term unemployment.”
The figures also revealed the number of people out of work for between six to 12 months grew by 26.4% to 435,000 – the fastest rate of increase of any unemployed group.
Nigel Meager, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said: “The composition of unemployment is changing rapidly.
“The fastest-growing group of unemployed is now those who have been claiming benefits for six to 12 months. As this trend continues, it is important that focus of government policy remains on the mounting problems associated with long-term unemployment.”
Meanwhile, the TUC’s general secretary, Brendan Barber, said government plans to cut public expenditure would only make unemployment rates worse.
He said: “Today’s figures are truly horrendous. Yet rather than treat unemployment as a national emergency, growing numbers of politicians are calling for deep public expenditure cuts. This will make the recession far worse.”
The figures come on the day environment secretary Ed Miliband is expected to announce government plans to create 400,000 new green-collar jobs.