Unemployment up amid more job cuts
The UK unemployment rate has increased to 8.4%, the highest since the end of 1995.
Unemployment increased by 28,000 between November and January to almost 2.7 million, while the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance increased for the 12th month in a row, up 7,200 in February to 1.6 million, the highest figure since the end of 2009.
French-based pharmaceutical firm Sanofi added to the gloom by announcing the closure of a plant in Newcastle upon Tyne with the loss of 450 jobs, while UK Coal raised the threat of closing Daw Mill mine near Coventry, the biggest in the country, jeopardising 800 jobs.
Other figures from the Office for National Statistics show that public sector employment also fell, by 37,000, in the final quarter of 2011 to just under six million and the number employed in private firms increased by 45,000 to 23 million.
Public sector employment has fallen by 270,000 people in the past year because of the Government's spending cuts. Youth unemployment increased by 16,000 to reach 1.04 million, a jobless rate of 22.5%, and the number of unemployed women jumped by 22,000 to 1.13 million.
The number of people working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job increased by 110,000 to 1.3 million, the highest since records began in 1992. Part-time employment rose by 60,000 to 6.6 million and self-employment fell by 52,000 to just over four million.
Average earnings increased by just 1.4% in the year to January, down by 0.5% on the previous month.
Unison said 625 public sector jobs have been lost every day since the coalition Government was formed, equivalent to one every two minutes 18 seconds.
General secretary Dave Prentis said: "Cuts are choking off demand in our economy and hitting the private sector hard. It cannot create enough jobs to offset public sector losses and fuel our recovery.
"The figures show that women are still being hit hardest by job losses. It's shameful to see that not only are women bearing the brunt of the recession, they are unemployed in record numbers and are hardest hit by Tory cuts to public services and jobs."