• In the three months to November 2011, unemployment increased by 118,000 but employment also increased by 18,000
• Unemployment at a level last seen in 1994
• Unemployed people aged 16-24 increased by 52,000 to 1.04m, the highest since records began

Commenting on the labour market figures published today by the ONS David Kern, Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“In the face of a challenging economic climate, an increase in unemployment is not entirely surprising. But certain aspects are actually more positive than expected. Employment has increased modestly despite the rise in unemployment. This shows the level of inactivity is falling as people return to the labour market and look for work. It is also important to note that more than 300,000 of those aged 16-24 are in full time education seeking work.

“Nevertheless, the situation is difficult and the combined impact of the austerity plan and problems in the eurozone will result in further increases in the jobless total. In our December forecast, we predicted an increase to 2.77m by the end of this year, but there is now a real possibility the total will be higher. With job losses in the public sector likely to continue, every effort must be made to help the private sector create more jobs.

“The welcome increase in employment in the last three months was largely due to an increase in people becoming self employed, while the number of people in full time work fell. This highlights the importance for small businesses and the self employed to create new jobs. Cutting red tape and making it easier for people to acquire the right skills is vital.”