LONDON Unemployment rose to its highest level in more than a decade in the three months to September as the economy tips into recession, official data showed on Wednesday.
The Office for National Statistics said the number of people without a job rose to 1.825 million in the three months to September, the highest level since the three months to December 1997. That took the jobless rate on the international ILO measure to 5.8 percent, the highest since Jan-March 2000.
Employment Minister Tony McNulty admitted these were "tough times" for the economy but said the government was determined to help those struggling.
"These are bad figures," he told BBC television. "There is no getting away from it ... these are very disappointing figures."
The number of people on jobless benefit rose by 36,500, the biggest increase since December 1992, when the country last suffered a recession.
Average earnings growth in the three months to September, including bonuses, eased to 3.3 percent.
Analysts described the data as "grim" and underlined a longer-term view that unemployment would continue to rise.
"It's going to get a lot worse than this," said Alan Clarke, an economist at BNP Paribas.
A prolonged period of rising unemployment will put further pressure on the already-stretched public finances as welfare spending rises and income tax receipts fall. It will also allow the Bank of England space to ease interest rates further without the risk of inflation fuelled by wage rises.
The Bank slashed rates by 1.5 percentage points to three percent last week, the lowest in more than half a century, and some analysts think rates could fall to record lows around 1.5 percent given the speed of the economic slowdown.
(Reporting by Adrian Croft and Fiona Shaikh, writing by Kate Kelland; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)