Unemployment recorded its biggest jump since 1981 in the first quarter of this year, although a smaller increase in the numbers of people claiming jobless benefits offered some comfort.

The unemployment rate reached 7.1% by the end of March, compared with 6.3% at the end of December, the Office for National Statistics reported, higher than the average forecast of 6.9%.

That leaves 2.22m people unemployed, up 244,000 since December and the highest number of unemployed since 1996 – the year before Labour came to power.

Financial Times