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Unemployment total hits 2.5 million

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 21 April 2010

The government is dealt a pre-election blow as total unemployment rises to 2.5 million, while the number of people classed as economically inactive reaches record levels.

Jon Centre Plus (Getty)

Figures published today showed that unemployment increased by 43,000 in the three months to February - the worst total since 1994.

Long-term unemployment, counting those out of work for over a year, increased by 89,000 to 726,000, the highest since Labour came to power in 1997.

The number of 16- to 24-year-olds out of work increased by 4,000 to 929,000, the highest since last autumn.

Economic inactivity - including students, people looking after a sick relative or those who have given up seeking work - soared by 110,000 in the latest quarter to 8.16 million, the worst figure since records began in 1971.

The Office for National Statistics also revealed that more than one in five people of working age is now classed as economically inactive.

The number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance fell last month by 32,900 to 1.54 million, the fourth time the figure has fallen in the last five months.

The number of people in work slumped by 89,000 to 28.8 million, the lowest since the end of 2005.

Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper said February had been a "tough" month and people were still being affected by the recession.

"What this shows is that we are not out of the woods yet. That is why it is so important that we keep increasing the support to the unemployed, but also that we sustain the overall support for the economy," she told the BBC.

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