UK unemployment rose by a record 281,000 to 2.38 million in the three months to May, the Office for National Statistics has said. The jobless rate increased to 7.6%, the highest in more than 10 years.
The number of people claiming unemployment benefit increased by 23,800 in June to 1.56 million, which was less than analysts had forecast. Unemployment among young people has been especially acute, as firms cut jobs to reduce costs in the downturn.
Young people - those up to 24 years old - have been particularly hard hit with unemployment leaping to a 16-year high of 726,000. The number of those out of work for more than a year rose by 46,000 to 528,000, the highest for 11 years.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "It's particularly worrying that over half a million unemployed people have been out of work for at least a year, including 133,000 young unemployed people."
"With a new generation of school and college leavers soon starting to look for work, our unemployment crisis will get even bigger.
Separately a BBC survey showed two-thirds of people across the UK know someone who has lost a job in the recession.
Even though politicans are claiming that economic conditions are stabilising, economists expect unemployment to continue rising this year, as financial uncertainty persists.
Vicky Redwood of Capital Economics said the latest figures contained "conflicting signals about whether conditions in the labour market are getting better or worse".
The increase in the unemployment total of 281,000 in the three months to May was the biggest quarterly rise since records of the ILO measure began in 1971. However, the rise in the claimant count in June was less than expected, and May's increase in the claimant count was revised down to 30,800 from the original estimate of 39,000.
"The claimant count measure of unemployment in June posted its smallest rise in a year. However, the wider ILO measure posted its biggest rise on record," said Ms Redwood. But, she said, unemployment was unlikely to fall until economic growth returned to its trend rate, and this would take a long time.
Not only is unemployment rising, figures show that the number of jobs available has also fallen. The number of vacancies dropped to a record low of 429,000 in the three months to June, down by 35,000 from the previous quarter. The number of unemployed men increased by almost 200,000 to 1.46 million, and 84,000 more women were out of work, putting female unemployment at 923,000.
Wales was the only part of the UK to see unemployment fall. During the three months to May, Wales saw 1,000 fewer unemployed people, putting the total at 107,000. In terms of unemployment rates, the West Midlands has the highest rate at 10.3% while the South East has the lowest at 6.1%.
Manufacturing jobs kept declining, down by 201,000 to a record low of 2.6 million.