15/05/2013 07:21 BST | Updated 15/07/2013 06:12 BST

Unemployment Jumps 15,000 To 2.52 Million

File photo dated 30/04/13 of Chancellor George Osborne as he called on the European Union today to "take the fight" to tax evaders and avoiders.

Unemployment has increased by 15,000 to 2.52 million, while total pay growth has fallen to its lowest level in four years.

It is the third quarterly increase in a row in the jobless total. The number of people in work fell by 43,000 in the latest quarter to March, to 29.7 million, the biggest fall since autumn 2011.

Today's data from the Office for National Statistics revealed that annual wage growth for the three-month period was 0.4%, a fall of 0.4% on the previous quarter, and lagging well behind inflation.

The figure for March alone showed a fall in pay of 0.4%, the first negative since March 2009.

Meanwhile, average earnings excluding bonuses rose by 0.8%, the lowest rise since records began in 2001.

The figures also revealed that 902,000 people had been out of work for more than a year, a 23,000 increase on the three months to December.

The number of unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds fell by 17,000 to 958,000.

The number of people classed as economically inactive, including students, people on long-term sick leave and those who have given up looking for work, rose by 47,000 to nine million.

Despite today's increase in unemployment, the total is 92,000 lower than a year ago.

Minister for Employment Mark Hoban said: "We are seeing continuing falls in the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance which is positive. Whilst there has been a disappointing increase in the headline rate of unemployment, we shouldn't forget the progress we are making.

"We are not complacent. To win the global race we need to do all that we can to help people achieve their aspiration to look after themselves and their families."

But Martin Beck, UK economist at Capital Economics, said: "Following recent positive news on the economy, today's UK labour market data provides something of a reality check.

"There was a triple whammy of bad news, with employment in the three months to March down by 43,000 and unemployment up by 15,000.

Meanwhile, the squeeze on real earnings has intensified.

"At least there was one piece of good news, with unemployment on the claimant count measure seeing a further drop in April, down by 7,300.

"But with further significant public sector job losses in the pipeline and firms likely to seek to restore productivity by shedding workers, it may not be long before even this narrower measure of unemployment starts to rise too."

Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight, said it was a "mixed" picture, adding that he expected unemployment to rise modestly over the year.

He said: "Earnings growth remains extremely weak, which is hitting consumers' purchasing power appreciably especially as consumer price inflation has moved back up to 2.8%.

"While the economy has recently shown welcome signs of improvement, a serious concern for growth prospects is that consumer spending will be held back by low earnings and softer employment."

Liam Byrne, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "We now have definitive proof the Government has simply failed to get Britain back to work."

He said the Government had done nothing in the Queen's Speech to help solve the "jobs crisis" and instead Tory MPs were bickering over Europe.

"Families struggling for work will be asking quite simply, what planet are these people on?"

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "These jobs figures are troubling. There are now more people out of work today than when the coalition took office three years ago.

"Those in work are taking a hammering in their pay packets with wage growth down to just 0.4%, while prices rise far more quickly.

"It's no wonder the economy is struggling when people in work are getting poorer every month."

She called on the Government to tackle the "economic stagnation" with a programme of investment.

Neil Carberry, director of employment and skills for the CBI, said: "Given the challenging economic conditions at the end of last year, it's unsurprising that we're now seeing fewer people in work.

"What's encouraging, however, is that economic conditions seem to be improving and that full-time jobs are still being created.

"With these figures showing the highest number of vacancies since 2008, this reflects businesses' more positive view of the year ahead."