Unemployment has increased by more than 100,000 to reach the highest level in three years, jobless figures showed yesterday.
The number of people look-ing for work jumped by 111,000 in the three months to November to 1.53 million, the biggest total since the end of 2002.
The claimant count, which includes people receiving Jobseeker's Allowance, rose by 7,200 in December to 909,100, the 11th consecutive monthly increase, producing a jobless rate of 2.9 per cent.
The figure is now 95,000 more than a year ago and is at a two-year high, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.
But on the more internationally-recognised ILO measure, which includes people out of work but not receiving benefit, the unemployment rate jumped to five per cent in the three months to November.
Numbers out of work rose by a hefty 111,000 over the quarter, the biggest such rise since the three months to February 1993, which economists said was more worrying.
The rate increased by 0.4 per cent compared to last summer.
Seasonally adjusted West Midlands claimant count unemployment totalled 102,200, up 1,200, 3.8 per cent of the workforce. The unadjusted equivalent was 99,700, up 2,200, 3.7 per cent.
On the ILO measure West Midlands unemployment was 131,000, plus 9,000, five per cent. The East Midlands equivalent was 97,000, down 3,000, 4.3 per cent.
Nationally, the number of people in work fell by 22,000 in the latest quarter to 28.76 million.
There was also an increase in the number of people classed as economically inactive, including those looking after a relative, students or people who have given up looking for a job.
The figure rose by 25,000 on the quarter to 7.94 million, the highest total since records began in 1971.
Manufacturing jobs continued to be lost, down by 109,000 in the three months to November to a record low of 3.1 million.
Vacancies also fell at the end of last year, down by 12,700 from the autumn.
Work Minister Margaret Hodge said: "Recent figures have been erratic and this quarter's are disappointing. However, taking the year as a whole, the number of people in work is up by over 200,000.
"This all underlines the crucial importance of a step change in our welfare to work effort.
"We need to do more. Our Welfare Reform Green Paper will set out further steps we will take to tackle worklessness. We want to make sure that people get the support they need to enable them to take up one of the many new jobs that come up all the time.
"If we ensure that individuals have the opportunity to work, they, for their part, must exercise responsibility to move back into work.
" There has been an improvement in the numbers claiming inactive benefits with fewer lone parents on benefit than this time last year and the number claiming incapacity benefits falling for the first time in over 20 years."
TUC chief economist Ian Brinkley said: "The latest labour market figures are very disappointing. Manufacturing is having a particularly tough time right now - British industry lost 109,000 jobs over the past year.
"The Chancellor should use the forthcoming Budget to announce a strategy to protect and enhance UK manufacturing and the Bank of England should announce a cut in interest rates when it meets next month."
The figures spelt difficulty for the Government's welfare to work agenda and showed clear signs of weaker activity in the labour market, according to Dr John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
The jobless total, added to the number of those classed as economically inactive, meant there were now 3.5 million people who wanted to work, said Dr Philpott.
"This, together with a seemingly inexorable rise in the number of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance, is a worrying backdrop to the Government's forthcoming Green Paper on welfare reform.
"At a time of economic uncertainty and weaker recruitment, persuading employers to hire more people from the Incapacity Benefit roll could prove difficult." ..SUPL: